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Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol. 2 (1789-1805) [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. 2.

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About this Title:

Volume 2 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 2
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

00 01 02 03 p 6 5 4 3 2 1

Edition: current; Page: [v]

Volume 2: Contents

    • Chronology 1789–1794 1001
    • 34


      Richard Price

    • 35


      James Dana 1029

    • 36


      Israel Evans

    • 37


      John Leland 1079

    • 38


      David Tappan 1101

    • 39


      Peter Thacher 1129

      Edition: current; Page: [vi]
    • 40


      Samuel Miller 1149

    • 41


      Enos Hitchcock 1169

    • 42


      Jonathan Edwards, Jr. 1185

    • 43


      David Osgood 1217

    • 44


      Noah Webster 1235

    • Chronology 1795-1805 1301
    • 45


      Bishop James Madison 1305

    • 46


      Stephen Peabody 1321

    • 47


      John Thayer 1339

    • 48


      Timothy Dwight 1363

    • 49


      Henry Holcombe 1395

    • 50


      John Smalley 1415

    • 51


      John Mitchell Mason 1447

    • 52


      Tunis Wortman 1477

      Edition: current; Page: [vii]
    • 53


      Stanley Grisworld 1529

    • 54


      William Emerson 1555

    • 55


      John Hargrove 1571

  • Index 1597
Edition: current; Page: [viii] Edition: current; Page: [1001]

Chronology: 1789–1794

1789 The first Congress under the new Constitution meets at Federal Hall in New York (Mar. 4). George Washington is inaugurated as President (Apr. 30). The Judiciary Act creates the federal court system, and the departments of state, war, and treasury are created to compose the executive branch.
The Society of St. Tammany is organized in New York City by William Mooney as an Antifederalist political fraternity (May 12).
The French Revolution begins with the fall of the Bastille (July 14), an event witnessed by Thomas Jefferson, then minister to France.
President Washington transmits to the states the proposed amendments to the Constitution (Oct. 2). The states ratify ten of them as a Bill of Rights and reject two.
John Carroll, ordained the first Catholic bishop in America, founds Georgetown, the first Catholic university in America.
The University of North Carolina is founded.
William Hill Brown publishes the first American novel, The Power of Sympathy.
David Ramsay’s The History of the American Revolution, the first national history, is published.
The first national Thanksgiving Day is established, by Congress’s resolution and Washington’s proclamation, to give thanks for the Constitution; the Antifederalists object, claiming that this violates states’ rights (Nov. 26).
A Quaker delegation petitions Congress to abolish slavery (Feb. 11).
The first census is completed (Mar. 1), showing a total U.S. population of 3,929,625, including 59,557 free blacks and 697,624 enslaved blacks. The largest cities are Philadelphia (42,000), New York (33,000), Boston (18,000), Charleston (16,000), and Baltimore (13,000). The most populous state is Virginia (820,000). Only Massachusetts reports no slaves.
Jefferson returns from France to become Secretary of State (Mar. 22).
Universalists convene in Philadelphia, led by Dr. Benjamin Rush and Reverend Elhanan Winchester, and assert an anti-Trinitarian doctrine denying the divinity of Jesus (May 25).
Rhode Island finally ratifies the Constitution, the thirteenth state to do so (May 29).
At the urging of Noah Webster, the first Copyright Act is passed and signed into law by President Washington (May 31).
A ten-square-mile Potomac River site is authorized (July 10) for a new national capital (Washington is to select the precise tract), with Philadelphia to serve in the interim (the government moves there in Dec.).
Samuel Slater builds a spinning mill for the Quaker merchant Moses Brown at Pawtucket, Rhode Island, beginning factory production in America (Dec. 21).
A SERMON DELIVERED AT THE ANNUAL ELECTION, Israel Evans (not published until 1802?)
The Whiskey Act places an excise tax on distilled liquors and stills, despite the opposition of farmers who dispose of surplus grain by distilling it (Mar. 3).
Vermont becomes the fourteenth state (Mar. 4).
Jefferson and Madison organize Antifederalist factions in Middle Atlantic and New England states during a “botanizing excursion”; they oppose Washington’s and Hamilton’s Federalist policies, giving birth to the Democratic-Republican Party (May–June).
Benjamin Banneker, a black mathematician, scientist, and clockmaker, is appointed one of three commissioners to survey the site for the new federal capital on the Potomac River (July 16).
Partisan newspapers fuel the conflict between Hamilton and Jefferson; Philip Freneau’s National Gazette of Philadelphia is a major voice for Jeffersonian views.
Hamilton presents to Congress a report of manufacturers that aims at developing American industry and agriculture (Dec. 5).
The main office of the Bank of the United States opens in Philadelphia (Dec. 12).
Thomas Paine publishes the first part of Rights of Man; from opposing viewpoints, Vice President John Adams publishes Discourses of Davila and his son John Quincy Adams publishes the Publicola papers.
The University of Vermont is founded.
The second part of Paine’s Rights of Man appears (Jan.).
Congress enacts the Militia Act in the face of growing Indian hostilities in the Northwest Territory; Gen. St. Clair, defeated by the Ohio Indians, is replaced as governor by Gen. Anthony Wayne.
Kentucky is admitted as the fifteenth state.
In a national election (Nov. 1), President George Washington and Vice President John Adams are re-elected by 132 and 77 electoral votes, respectively (results promulgated Dec. 5); the Antifederalist George Clinton, Governor of New York, receives 50 electoral votes.
The Second Congress convenes in Philadelphia (Nov. 5).
In England, Mary Wollstonecraft publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Women, a work widely read in America.
Denmark becomes the first nation to abolish the slave trade.
The first turnpike opens, running the 60 miles from Philadelphia to Lancaster on a hard-packed surface of crushed rock.
King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette are guillotined in Paris (Jan. 21), dampening the enthusiasm of Americans for the French Revolution.
France’s revolutionary government declares war on Great Britain, Spain, and the Netherlands (Feb. 1), further chilling American sympathies and intensifying acrimony against Jeffersonian-Antifederalist sympathies for the French Revolution.
Washington inaugurated for a second term as president (Mar. 4).
Citizen Edmond Genêt, the French minister to the United States, lands in Charleston and commissions privateers to raid British shipping. During a 28-day journey to Philadelphia to present credentials to President Washington (Apr. 8–May 18), Genêt lobbies for American support for the French Republic. However, Washington issues a proclamation of neutrality (Apr. 22).
Jefferson submits his resignation as Secretary of State (July 31), to become effective at the end of the year.
The Genêt crisis intensifies, as he appeals over Washington’s head to the American public, but the Jacobins come to power in Paris and issue a warrant for his arrest. Granted asylum (June–Aug.), Genêt later becomes an American citizen and marries New York Governor Clinton’s daughter.
A slave revolt in Albany, New York, devastates the city with fires (Nov. 25).
Williams College is founded.
Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin.
Edmund Randolph succeeds Jefferson as Secretary of State (Jan. 2).
The Whiskey Rebellion is put down in Pennsylvania by a 12,900-man militia led by Gen. Henry (“Light Horse Harry”) Lee (July–mid-Nov.).
Jay’s Treaty with Britain is concluded (Nov. 19), settling matters left unresolved by the Treaty of Paris (the terms publicly disclosed Mar. 1795).
“Mad” Anthony Wayne defeats a large force of Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, securing what will later become the state of Ohio.
Edition: current; Page: [1005]
richard price a discourse on the love of our country fpage="1005" lpage="1028"


Edition: current; Page: [1006]

Richard Price (1723–1791). Born at Tynton in Glamorganshire, Wales, Price gained fame as a supporter of the American and French revolutions. A friend of Benjamin Franklin, he was a liberal Presbyterian minister and a moral philosopher whose critique of the Scottish philosophy of Francis Hutcheson in Review of the Principal Questions and Difficulties in Morals (1758) came to be regarded as a significant anticipation of Kant’s ethics in certain respects and of nineteenth-century intuitionism in others. With Joseph Priestly, Price also published A Free Discussion of the Doctrines of Materialism and Philosophical Necessity (1778), written in the form of a debate. As a result of his publication of a reply to David Hume’s essay on miracles, Price had a D.D. degree conferred upon him by the University of Aberdeen.

As an expert on finance and insurance, Price was selected to become a member of the Royal Society in 1765 for work on the theory of probability as applied to actuarial questions. His recommendation of a sinking fund to cope with problems of national debt influenced both French and British policy.

Price’s vehement support for American independence came primarily through publication of two pamphlets that circulated widely at home and in America: Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty, the Principles of Government, and the Justice and Policy of the War with America (1776) and Additional Observations . . . (1777). Offered American citizenship, he declined, but he did address Congress when invited in 1778, was inducted into the American Philosophical Society, and was awarded (along with George Washington) an LL.D. by Yale in 1781. Price’s The Importance of the American Revolution appeared in 1784.

The celebrated sermon that follows was preached in London on November 4, 1789, the 101st anniversary of the Glorious Revolution. It presents Price’s apocalyptic view of the dawning of the millennium through the spread of liberty and happiness over the world, especially as evinced in French developments at the time. This point, according to A. J. Grieve, was for Edmund Burke the “grit around which he built up his pearl”—namely, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). The gentility of Price’s encomium for the French revolutionaries contrasts drastically with Burke’s savage ridicule:

Is it because liberty in the abstract may be classed amongst the blessings of mankind, that I am seriously to felicitate a madman, who has escaped Edition: current; Page: [1007] Edition: current; Page: [1008] from the protecting restraint and wholesome darkness of his cell, on his restoration to the enjoyment of light and liberty? Am I to congratulate a highwayman and murderer, who has broke prison, upon the recovery of his natural rights? This would be to act over again the scene of the criminals condemned to the galleys, and their heroic deliverer [Don Quixote], the metaphysic knight of the sorrowful countenance.

In rebuttal to Price’s central proposition that the people of England have three fundamental rights that the French aspire to (“To choose our own governors; to cashier them for misconduct; and to frame a government for ourselves”), Burke scathingly retorted: “We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties, from a long line of ancestors.” Burke was answered not only by the aged, ailing Price, but also by Thomas Paine in The Rights of Man (1792). Paine, a writer of comparable intellect but of far less gentility—being every bit Burke’s equal in the fine old art of invective—vindicated Price’s three fundamental rights. Indeed, Price’s sermon was the starting point for what Thomas W. Copeland designated “the most crucial ideological debate ever carried on in English.”

Edition: current; Page: [1009]

Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem, whither the tribes go up; the tribes of the Lord unto the testimony of Israel. To give thanks to the name of the Lord, for there sit the thrones of judgment; the throne of the House of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions sake I will now say, peace be within thee. Because of the House of the Lord our God, I will seek thy good.

Psalm cxxii, 2d, and following verses.

In these words the Psalmist expresses, in strong and beautiful language, his love of his country, and the reasons on which he founded it; and my present design is, to take occasion from them to explain the duty we owe to our country, and the nature, foundation, and proper expressions of that love to it which we ought to cultivate.

I reckon this a subject particularly suitable to the services of this day, and to the anniversary of our deliverance at the Revolution from the dangers of popery and arbitrary power; and should I, on such an occasion, be led to touch more on political subjects than would at any other time be proper in the pulpit, you will, I doubt not, excuse me.

The love of our country has, in all times, been a subject of warm commendations; and it is certainly a noble passion; but, like all other passions, it requires regulation and direction. There are mistakes and prejudices by which, in this instance, we are in particular danger of being misled. I will briefly mention some of these to you, and observe,

First, That by our country is meant, in this case, not the soil, or the spot of earth on which we happen to have been born; not the forests and fields, but that community of which we are members; or that body of companions and friends and kindred who are associated with us under the same constitution of government, protected by the same laws, and bound together by the same civil polity.

Secondly, It is proper to observe, that even in this sense of our country, that love of it which is our duty, does not imply any conviction of the superior value of it to other countries, or any particular preference of its laws and constitution of government. Were this implied, the love of their country would be the duty of only a very Edition: current; Page: [1010] small part of mankind; for there are few countries that enjoy the advantage of laws and governments which deserve to be preferred. To found, therefore, this duty on such a preference, would be to found it on error and delusion. It is however a common delusion. There is the same partiality in countries, to themselves, that there is in individuals. All our attachments should be accompanied, as far as possible, with right opinions. We are too apt to confine wisdom and virtue within the circle of our own acquaintance and party. Our friends, our country, and, in short, every thing related to us, we are disposed to overvalue. A wise man will guard himself against this delusion. He will study to think of all things as they are, and not suffer any partial affections to blind his understanding. In other families there may be as much worth as in our own. In other circles of friends there may be as much wisdom; and in other countries as much of all that deserves esteem; but, notwithstanding this, our obligation to love our own families, friends, and country, and to seek, in the first place, their good, will remain the same.

Thirdly, It is proper I should desire you particularly to distinguish between the love of our country and that spirit of rivalship and ambition which has been common among nations. What has the love of their country hitherto been among mankind? What has it been but a love of domination; a desire of conquest, and a thirst for grandeur and glory, by extending territory, and enslaving surrounding countries? What has it been but a blind and narrow principle, producing in every country a contempt of other countries, and forming men into combinations and factions against their common rights and liberties? This is the principle that has been too often cried up as a virtue of the first rank: a principle of the same kind with that which governs clans of Indians, or tribes of Arabs, and leads them out to plunder and massacre. As most of the evils which have taken place in private life, and among individuals, have been occasioned by the desire of private interest overcoming the public affections; so most of the evils which have taken place among bodies of men have been occasioned by the desire of their own interest overcoming the principle of universal benevolence: and leading them to attack one another’s territories, to encroach on one another’s rights, and to endeavour to build their own advancement on the degradation of all within the reach of their power—what was the love of their country among the Jews, but a wretched Edition: current; Page: [1011] partiality to themselves, and a proud contempt of all other nations? What was the love of their country among the old Romans? We have heard much of it; but I cannot hesitate in saying that, however great it appeared in some of its exertions, it was, in general, no better than a principle holding together a band of robbers in their attempts to crush all liberty but their own. What is now the love of his country in a Spaniard, a Turk, or a Russian? Can it be considered as any thing better than a passion for slavery, or a blind attachment to a spot where he enjoys no rights, and is disposed of as if he was a beast?

Let us learn by such reflections to correct and purify this passion, and to make it a just and rational principle of action.

It is very remarkable that the founder of our religion has not once mentioned this duty, or given us any recommendation of it; and this has, by unbelievers, been made an objection to Christianity. What I have said will entirely remove this objection. Certain it is, that, by inculcating on men an attachment to their country, Christianity would, at the time it was propagated, have done unspeakably more harm than good. Among the Jews, it would have been an excitement to war and insurrections; for they were then in eager expectation of becoming soon (as the favourite people of heaven) the lords and conquerors of the earth, under the triumphant reign of the Messiah. Among the Romans, likewise, this principle had, as I have just observed, exceeded its just bounds, and rendered them enemies to the peace and happiness of mankind. By inculcating it, therefore, Christianity would have confirmed both Jews and gentiles in one of the most pernicious faults. Our Lord and his apostles have done better. They have recommended that universal benevolence which is an unspeakably nobler principle than any partial affections. They have laid such stress on loving all men, even our enemies, and made an ardent and extensive charity so essential a part of virtue, that the religion they have preached may, by way of distinction from all other religions, be called the Religion of Benevolence. Nothing can be more friendly to the general rights of mankind; and were it duly regarded and practised, every man would consider every other man as his brother, and all the animosity that now takes place among contending nations would be abolished. If you want any proof of this, think of our Saviour’s parable of the good Samaritan. The Jews and Samaritans were two rival nations that entertained a hatred of one another the Edition: current; Page: [1012] most inveterate. The design of this parable was to shew to a Jew, that even a Samaritan, and consequently all men of all nations and religions, were included in the precept, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

But I am digressing from what I had chiefly in view; which was, after noticing that love of our country which is false and spurious, to explain the nature and effects of that which is just and reasonable. With this view, I must desire you to recollect that we are so constituted that our affections are more drawn to some among mankind than to others, in proportion to their degrees of nearness to us, and our power of being useful to them. It is obvious, that this is a circumstance in the constitution of our natures which proves the wisdom and goodness of our Maker; for had our affections been determined alike to all our fellow-creatures, human life would have been a scene of embarrassment and distraction. Our regards, according to the order of nature, begin with ourselves; and every man is charged primarily with the care of himself. Next come our families, and benefactors, and friends; and after them, our country. We can do little for the interest of mankind at large. To this interest, however, all other interests are subordinate. The noblest principle in our nature is the regard to general justice, and that good-will which embraces all the world. I have already observed this; but it cannot be too often repeated. Though our immediate attention must be employed in promoting our own interest and that of our nearest connexions; yet we must remember, that a narrower interest ought always to give way to a more extensive interest. In pursuing particularly the interest of our country, we ought to carry our views beyond it. We should love it ardently, but not exclusively. We ought to seek its good, by all the means that our different circumstances and abilities will allow; but, at the same time, we ought to consider ourselves as citizens of the world, and take care to maintain a just regard to the rights of other countries.

The enquiry by what means (subject to this limitation) we may best promote the interest of our country, is very important; and all that remains of this discourse shall be employed in answering it, and in exhorting you to manifest your love to your country, by the means I shall mention.

The chief blessings of human nature are the three following: Truth—Virtue—and Liberty. Edition: current; Page: [1013] These are, therefore, the blessings in the possession of which the interest of our country lies, and to the attainment of which our love of it ought to direct our endeavours. By the diffusion of knowledge it must be distinguished from a country of barbarians: by the practice of religious virtue, it must be distinguished from a country of gamblers, atheists, and libertines: and by the possession of liberty, it must be distinguished from a country of slaves. I will dwell for a few moments on each of these heads:

Our first concern, as lovers of our country, must be to enlighten it. Why are the nations of the world so patient under despotism? Why do they crouch to tyrants, and submit to be treated as if they were a herd of cattle? Is it not because they are kept in darkness, and want knowledge? Enlighten them and you will elevate them. Shew them they are men, and they will act like men. Give them just ideas of civil government, and let them know that it is an expedient for gaining protection against injury and defending their rights, and it will be impossible for them to submit to governments which, like most of those now in the world, are usurpations on the rights of men, and little better than contrivances for enabling the few to oppress the many. Convince them that the Deity is a righteous and benevolent as well as omnipotent Being, who regards with equal eye all his creatures, and connects his favour with nothing but an honest desire to know and do his will; and that zeal for mystical doctrines which has led men to hate and harass one another, will be exterminated. Set religion before them as a rational service, consisting not in any rites and ceremonies, but in worshipping God with a pure heart, and practising righteousness from the fear of his displeasure and the apprehension of a future righteous judgment, and that gloomy and cruel superstition will be abolished, which has hitherto gone under the name of religion, and to the support of which civil government has been perverted. Ignorance is the parent of bigotry, intolerance, persecution and slavery. Inform and instruct mankind, and these evils will be excluded. Happy is the person who, himself raised above vulgar errors, is conscious of having aimed at giving mankind this instruction. Happy is the scholar or philosopher who at the close of life can reflect that he has made this use of his learning and abilities: but happier far must he be, if at the same time he has reason to believe he has been successful, and actually contributed, by his instructions, to Edition: current; Page: [1014] disseminate among his fellow-creatures just notions of themselves, of their rights, of religion, and the nature and end of civil government. Such were Milton, Locke, Sidney, Hoadly, &c. in this country; such were Montesquieu, Fenelon, Turgot, &c. in France. They sowed a seed which has since taken root, and is now growing up to a glorious harvest. To the information they conveyed by their writings we owe those revolutions in which every friend to mankind is now exulting. What an encouragement is this to us all in our endeavours to enlighten the world? Every degree of illumination which we can communicate must do the greatest good. It helps to prepare the minds of men for the recovery of their rights, and hastens the overthrow of priestcraft and tyranny. In short, we may, in this instance, learn our duty from the conduct of the oppressors of the world. They know that light is hostile to them, and therefore they labour to keep men in the dark. With this intention they have appointed licensers of the press; and, in popish countries, prohibited the reading of the Bible. Remove the darkness in which they envelope the world, and their usurpations will be exposed, their power will be subverted, and the world emancipated.

The next great blessing of human nature which I have mentioned, is virtue. This ought to follow knowledge, and to be directed by it. Virtue without knowledge makes enthusiasts; and knowledge without virtue makes devils; but both united elevates to the top of human dignity and perfection. We must, therefore, if we would serve our country, make both these the objects of our zeal. We must discourage vice in all its forms; and our endeavours to enlighten must have ultimately in view a reformation of manners and virtuous practice.

I must add here, that in the practice of virtue I include the discharge of the public duties of religion. By neglecting these, we may injure our country essentially. But it is melancholy to observe that it is a common neglect among us; and in a great measure owing to a cause which is not likely to be soon removed: I mean, the defects (may I not say, the absurdities?) in our established codes of faith and worship. In foreign countries, the higher ranks of men, not distinguishing between the religion they see established and the Christian religion, are generally driven to irreligion and infidelity. The like evil is produced by the like cause in this country; and if no reformation of our established formularies can be brought about, it must be expected Edition: current; Page: [1015] that religion will go on to lose its credit, and that little of it will be left except among the lower orders of people, many of whom, while their superiors give up all religion, are sinking into an enthusiasm in religion lately revived.

I hope you will not mistake what I am now saying, or consider it as the effect of my prejudices as a dissenter from the established church. The complaint I am making, is the complaint of many of the wisest and best men in the established church itself, who have been long urging the necessity of a revisal of its liturgy and articles. These were framed above two centuries ago, when Christendom was just emerging from the ignorance and barbarity of the dark ages. They remain now much the same they were then; and, therefore, cannot be properly adapted to the good sense and liberality of the present times. This imperfection, however, in our public forms of worship, affords no excuse to any person for neglecting public worship. All communities will have some religion; and it is of infinite consequence that they should be led to that which, by enforcing the obligations of virtue and putting men upon loving instead of damning one another, is most favourable to the interest of society.

If there is a Governor of the world, who directs all events, he ought to be invoked and worshipped; and those who dislike that mode of worship which is prescribed by public authority, ought (if they can find no worship out of the church which they approve) to set up a separate worship for themselves; and by doing this, and giving an example of a rational and manly worship, men of weight, from their rank or literature, may do the greatest service to society and the world. They may bear a testimony against that application of civil power to the support of particular modes of faith, which obstructs human improvement, and perpetuates error; and they may hold out an instruction which will discountenance superstition, and at the same time recommend religion, by making it appear to be (what it certainly is when rightly understood) the strongest incentive to all that is generous and worthy, and consequently the best friend to public order and happiness.

Liberty is the next great blessing which I have mentioned as the object of patriotic zeal. It is inseparable from knowledge and virtue, and together with them completes the glory of a community. An enlightened and virtuous country must be a free country. It cannot suffer Edition: current; Page: [1016] invasions of its rights, or bend to tyrants. I need not, on this occasion, take any pains to shew you how great a blessing liberty is. The smallest attention to the history of past ages, and the present state of mankind, will make you sensible of its importance. Look round the world, and you will find almost every country, respectable or contemptible, happy or miserable, a fruitful field or a frightful waste, according as it possesses or wants this blessing. Think of Greece, formerly the seat of arts and science, and the most distinguished spot under heaven; but now, having lost liberty, a vile and wretched spot, a region of darkness, poverty, and barbarity. Such reflections must convince you that, if you love your country, you cannot be zealous enough in promoting the cause of liberty in it. But it will come in my way to say more to this purpose presently.

The observations I have made include our whole duty to our country; for by endeavouring to liberalize and enlighten it, to discourage vice and to promote virtue in it, and to assert and support its liberties, we shall endeavour to do all that is necessary to make it great and happy. But it is proper that, on this occasion, I should be more explicit, and exemplify our duty to our country by observing farther, that it requires us to obey its laws, and to respect its magistrates.

Civil government (as I have before observed) is an institution of human prudence for guarding our persons, our property, and our good name, against invasion; and for securing to the members of a community that liberty to which all have an equal right, as far as they do not, by any overt act, use it to injure the liberty of others. Civil laws are regulations agreed upon by the community for gaining these ends; and civil magistrates are officers appointed by the community for executing these laws. Obedience, therefore, to the laws and to magistrates, are necessary expressions of our regard to the community; and without this obedience the ends of government cannot be obtained, or a community avoid falling into a state of anarchy that will destroy those rights and subvert that liberty, which government is instituted to protect.

I wish it was in my power to give you a just account of the importance of this observation. It shews the ground on which the duty of obeying civil governors stands, and that there are two extremes in this case which ought to be avoided. These extremes are adulation and servility on one hand; and a proud and licentious contempt on Edition: current; Page: [1017] the other. The former is the extreme to which mankind in general have been most prone; for it has oftener happened that men have been too passive than too unruly; and the rebellion of kings against their people has been more common, and done more mischief, than the rebellion of people against their kings.

Adulation is always odious, and when offered to men in power, it corrupts them, by giving them improper ideas of their situation; and it debases those who offer it, by manifesting an abjectness founded on improper ideas of themselves. I have lately observed in this kingdom too near approaches to this abjectness. In our late addresses to the king, on his recovery from the severe illness with which God has been pleased to afflict him, we have appeared more like a herd crawling at the feet of a master, than like enlightened and manly citizens rejoicing with a beloved sovereign, but at the same time conscious that he derives all his consequence from themselves. But, perhaps, these servilities in the language of our late addresses should be pardoned, as only forms of civility and expressions of an overflow of good-nature. They have, however, a dangerous tendency. The potentates of this world are sufficiently apt to consider themselves as possessed of an inherent superiority, which gives them a right to govern, and makes mankind their own; and this infatuation is almost every where fostered in them by the creeping sycophants about them, and the language of flattery which they are continually hearing.

Civil governors are properly the servants of the public; and a king is no more than the first servant of the public, created by it, maintained by it, and responsible to it: and all the homage paid him, is due to him on no other account than his relation to the public. His sacredness is the sacredness of the community. His authority is the authority of the community; and the term majesty, which it is usual to apply to him, is by no means his own majesty, but the majesty of the people. For this reason, whatever he may be in his private capacity; and though, in respect of personal qualities, not equal to, or even far below many among ourselves—for this reason, I say (that is, as representing the community and its first magistrate), he is entitled to our reverence and obedience. The words most excellent majesty are rightly applied to him; and there is a respect which it would be criminal to withhold from him.

You cannot be too attentive to this observation. The improvement Edition: current; Page: [1018] of the world depends on the attention to it: nor will mankind be ever as virtuous and happy as they are capable of being, till the attention to it becomes universal and efficacious. If we forget it, we shall be in danger of an idolatry as gross and stupid as that of the ancient heathens, who, after fabricating blocks of wood or stone, fell down and worshipped them. The disposition in mankind to this kind of idolatry is indeed a very mortifying subject of reflection. In Turkey, millions of human beings adore a silly mortal, and are ready to throw themselves at his feet, and to submit their lives to his discretion. In Russia, the common people are only a stock on the lands of grandees, or appendages to their estates, which, like the fixtures in a house, are bought and sold with the estates. In Spain, in Germany, and under most of the governments of the world, mankind are in a similar state of humiliation. Who, that has a just sense of the dignity of his nature, can avoid execrating such a debasement of it?

Had I been to address the king on a late occasion, I should have been inclined to do it in a style very different from that of most of the addressers, and to use some such language as the following:

I rejoice, sir, in your recovery. I thank God for his goodness to you. I honour you not only as my king, but as almost the only lawful king in the world, because the only one who owes his crown to the choice of his people. May you enjoy all possible happiness. May God shew you the folly of those effusions of adulation which you are now receiving, and guard you against their effects. May you be led to such a just sense of the nature of your situation, and endowed with such wisdom, as shall render your restoration to the government of these kingdoms a blessing to it, and engage you to consider yourself as more properly the servant than the sovereign of your people.

But I must not forget the opposite extreme to that now taken notice of; that is, a disdainful pride, derived from a consciousness of equality, or, perhaps, superiority, in respect of all that gives true dignity to men in power, and producing a contempt of them, and a disposition to treat them with rudeness and insult. It is a trite observation, that extremes generally beget one another. This is particularly true in the present case. Persons justly informed on the subject of government, when they see men dazzled by looking up to high stations, and observe loyalty carried to a length that implies ignorance and servility: such persons, in such circumstances, are in danger of spurning at all Edition: current; Page: [1019] public authority, and throwing off that respectful demeanor to persons invested with it, which the order of society requires. There is undoubtedly a particular deference and homage due to civil magistrates, on account of their stations and offices; nor can that man be either truly wise or truly virtuous, who despises governments, and wantonly speaks evil of his rulers; or who does not, by all the means in his power, endeavour to strengthen their hands, and to give weight to their exertions in the discharge of their duty. Fear God, says St. Peter. Love the brotherhood. Honour all men. Honour the King. You must needs, says St. Paul, be subject to rulers, not only for wrath (that is, from the fear of suffering the penalties annexed to the breach of the laws) but for conscience sake. For rulers are ministers of God, and revengers for executing wrath on all that do evil.

Another expression of our love to our country is defending it against enemies. These enemies are of two sorts, internal and external; or domestic and foreign. The former are the most dangerous, and they have generally been the most successful. I have just observed, that there is a submission due to the executive officers of government, which is our duty; but you must not forget what I have also observed, that it must not be a blind and slavish submission. Men in power (unless better disposed than is common) are always endeavouring to extend their power. They hate the doctrine, that it is a trust derived from the people, and not a right vested in themselves. For this reason, the tendency of every government is to despotism; and in this the best constituted governments must end, if the people are not vigilant, ready to take alarms, and determined to resist abuses as soon as they begin. This vigilance, therefore, it is our duty to maintain. Whenever it is withdrawn, and a people cease to reason about their rights and to be awake to encroachments, they are in danger of being enslaved, and their servants will soon become their masters.

I need not say how much it is our duty to defend our country against foreign enemies. When a country is attacked in any of its rights by another country, or when any attempts are made by ambitious foreign powers to injure it, a war in its defence becomes necessary: and, in such circumstances, to die for our country is meritorious and noble. These defensive wars are, in my opinion, the only just wars. Offensive wars are always unlawful; and to seek the aggrandizement of our country by them, that is, by attacking other countries, Edition: current; Page: [1020] in order to extend dominion, or to gratify avarice, is wicked and detestable. Such, however, have been most of the wars which have taken place in the world; but the time is, I hope, coming, when a conviction will prevail, of the folly as well as the iniquity of wars; and when the nations of the earth, happy under just governments, and no longer in danger from the passions of kings, will find out better ways of settling their disputes; and beat (as Isaiah prophesies) their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks.

Among the particulars included in that duty to our country, by discharging which we should shew our love to it, I will only further mention praying for it, and offering up thanksgivings to God for every event favourable to it. At the present season we are called upon to express, in this way, our love to our country. It is the business of this day and of the present service; and, therefore, it is necessary that I should now direct your attention to it particularly.

We are met to thank God for that event in this country to which the name of the Revolution has been given; and which, for more than a century, it has been usual for the friends of freedom, and more especially Protestant Dissenters, under the title of the Revolution Society, to celebrate with expressions of joy and exultation. My highly valued and excellent friend, who addressed you on this occasion last year, has given you an interesting account of the principal circumstances that attended this event, and of the reasons we have for rejoicing in it. By a bloodless victory, the fetters which despotism had been long preparing for us were broken; the rights of the people were asserted, a tyrant expelled, and a sovereign of our own choice appointed in his room. Security was given to our property, and our consciences were emancipated. The bounds of free enquiry were enlarged; the volume in which are the words of eternal life, was laid more open to our examination; and that æra of light and liberty was introduced among us, by which we have been made an example to other kingdoms, and became the instructors of the world. Had it not been for this deliverance, the probability is, that, instead of being thus distinguished, we should now have been a base people, groaning under the infamy and misery of popery and slavery. Let us therefore, offer thanksgivings to God, the author of all our blessings. Had he not been on our side, we should have been swallowed up quick, and the proud waters would have gone over our souls. But our souls are escaped, and the Edition: current; Page: [1021] snare has been broken. Blessed then be the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. cxxivth Psalm.

It is well known that King James was not far from gaining his purpose; and that probably he would have succeeded, had he been less in a hurry. But he was a fool as well as a bigot. He wanted courage as well as prudence; and, therefore, fled, and left us to settle quietly for ourselves that constitution of government which is now our boast. We have particular reason, as Protestant Dissenters, to rejoice on this occasion. It was at this time we were rescued from persecution, and obtained the liberty of worshipping God in the manner we think most acceptable to him. It was then our meeting houses were opened, our worship was taken under the protection of the law, and the principles of toleration gained a triumph. We have, therefore, on this occasion, peculiar reasons for thanksgiving—But let us remember that we ought not to satisfy ourselves with thanksgivings. Our gratitude, if genuine, will be accompanied with endeavours to give stability to the deliverance our country has obtained, and to extend and improve the happiness with which the Revolution has blest us—let us, in particular, take care not to forget the principles of the Revolution. This society has, very properly, in its reports, held out these principles, as an instruction to the public. I will only take notice of the three following:

First; The right to liberty of conscience in religious matters.

Secondly; The right to resist power when abused. And,

Thirdly; The right to chuse our own governors; to cashier them for misconduct; and to frame a government for ourselves.

On these three principles, and more especially the last, was the Revolution founded. Were it not true that liberty of conscience is a sacred right; that power abused justifies resistance; and that civil authority is a delegation from the people—were not, I say, all this true, the Revolution would have been not an assertion, but an invasion of rights; not a revolution, but a rebellion. Cherish in your breasts this conviction, and act under its influence; detesting the odious doctrines of passive obedience, non-resistance, and the divine right of kings—doctrines which, had they been acted upon in this country, would have left us at this time wretched slaves—doctrines which imply, that God made mankind to be oppressed and plundered; and which are no less a blasphemy against him, than an insult on common sense.

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I would farther direct you to remember, that though the Revolution was a great work, it was by no means a perfect work; and that all was not then gained which was necessary to put the kingdom in the secure and complete possession of the blessings of liberty. In particular, you should recollect, that the toleration then obtained was imperfect. It included only those who could declare their faith in the doctrinal articles of the church of England. It has, indeed, been since extended, but not sufficiently; for there still exist penal laws on account of religious opinions, which (were they carried into execution) would shut up many of our places of worship, and silence and imprison some of our ablest and best men. The Test Laws are also still in force; and deprive of eligibility to civil and military offices, all who cannot conform to the established worship. It is with great pleasure I find that the body of Protestant Dissenters, though defeated in two late attempts to deliver their country from this disgrace to it, have determined to persevere. Should they at last succeed, they will have the satisfaction, not only of removing from themselves a proscription they do not deserve, but of contributing to lessen the number of public iniquities. For I cannot call by a gentler name, laws which convert an ordinance appointed by our Saviour to commemorate his death, into an instrument of oppressive policy, and a qualification of rakes and atheists for civil posts. I have said, should they succeed—but perhaps I ought not to suggest a doubt about their success* And, indeed, Edition: current; Page: [1023] when I consider that in Scotland the established church is defended by no such test—that in Ireland it has been abolished—that in a great neighbouring country it has been declared to be an indefeasible right of all citizens to be equally eligible to public offices—that in the same kingdom a professed dissenter from the established church holds the first office in the state—that in the emperor’s dominions Jews have been lately admitted to the enjoyment of equal privileges with other citizens—and that in this very country, a Dissenter, though excluded from the power of executing the laws, yet is allowed to be employed in making them. When, I say, I consider such facts as these, I am disposed to think it impossible that the enemies of the repeal of the Test Laws should not soon become ashamed, and give up their opposition.

But the most important instance of the imperfect state in which the Revolution left our constitution, is the inequality of our representation. I think, indeed, this defect in our constitution so gross and so palpable, as to make it excellent chiefly in form and theory. You should remember that a representation in the legislature of a kingdom is the basis of constitutional liberty in it, and of all legitimate government; and that without it a government is nothing but an usurpation. When the representation is fair and equal, and at the same time vested with such powers as our House of Commons possesses, a kingdom may be Edition: current; Page: [1024] said to govern itself, and consequently to possess true liberty. When the representation is partial, a kingdom possesses liberty only partially; and if extremely partial, it only gives a semblance of liberty; but if not only extremely partial, but corruptly chosen, and under corrupt influence after being chosen, it becomes a nuisance, and produces the worst of all forms of government—a government by corruption, a government carried on and supported by spreading venality and profligacy through a kingdom. May heaven preserve this kingdom from a calamity so dreadful! It is the point of depravity to which abuses under such a government as ours naturally tend, and the last stage of national unhappiness. We are, at present, I hope, at a great distance from it. But it cannot be pretended that there are no advances towards it, or that there is no reason for apprehension and alarm.

The inadequateness of our representation has been long a subject of complaint. This is, in truth, our fundamental grievance; and I do not think that any thing is much more our duty, as men who love their country, and are grateful for the Revolution, than to unite our zeal in endeavouring to get it redressed. At the time of the American war, associations were formed for this purpose in London, and other parts of the kingdom; and our present minister himself has, since that war, directed to it an effort which made him a favourite with many of us. But all attention to it seems now lost, and the probability is, that this inattention will continue, and that nothing will be done towards gaining for us this essential blessing, till some great calamity again alarms our fears, or till some great abuse of power again provokes our resentment; or, perhaps, till the acquisition of a pure and equal representation by other countries (while we are mocked with the shadow) kindles our shame.

Such is the conduct by which we ought to express our gratitude for the Revolution. We should always bear in mind the principles that justify it. We should contribute all we can towards supplying what it left deficient; and shew ourselves anxious about transmitting the blessings obtained by it to our posterity, unimpaired and improved. But, brethren, while we thus shew our patriotic zeal, let us take care not to disgrace the cause of patriotism, by any licentious, or immoral conduct. Oh! how earnestly do I wish that all who profess zeal in this cause, were as distinguished by the purity of their morals, as some of them are by their abilities; and that I could make them sensible of the Edition: current; Page: [1025] advantages they would derive from a virtuous character, and of the suspicions they incur and the loss of consequence they suffer by wanting it. Oh! that I could see in men who oppose tyranny in the state, a disdain of the tyranny of low passions in themselves; or, at least, such a sense of shame, and regard to public order and decency as would induce them to bide their irregularities, and to avoid insulting the virtuous part of the community by an open exhibition of vice! I cannot reconcile myself to the idea of an immoral patriot, or to that separation of private from public virtue, which some think to be possible. Is it to be expected that—but I must forbear. I am afraid of applications, which many are too ready to make, and for which I should be sorry to give any just occasion.

I have been explaining to you the nature and expressions of a just regard to our country. Give me leave to exhort you to examine your conduct by what I have been saying. You love your country, and desire its happiness; and, without doubt, you have the greatest reason for loving it. It has been long a very distinguished and favoured country. Often has God appeared for it, and delivered it. Let us study to shew ourselves worthy of the favour shewn us. Do you practice virtue yourselves, and study to promote it in others? Do you obey the laws of your country, and aim at doing your part towards maintaining and perpetuating its privileges? Do you always give your vote on the side of public liberty; and are you ready to pour out your blood in its defence? Do you look up to God for the continuance of his favour to your country, and pray for its prosperity; preserving, at the same time, a strict regard to the rights of other countries, and always considering yourselves more as citizens of the world than as members of any particular community? If this is your temper and conduct you are blessings to your country, and were all like you, this world would soon be a heaven.

I am addressing myself to Christians. Let me, therefore, mention to you the example of our blessed Saviour. I have observed, at the beginning of this discourse, that he did not inculcate upon his hearers the love of their country, or take any notice of it as a part of our duty. Instead of doing this, I observed that he taught the obligation to love all mankind, and recommended universal benevolence, as (next to the love of God) our first duty; and, I think, I also proved to you, that this, in the circumstances of the world at that time, was an Edition: current; Page: [1026] instance of incomparable wisdom and goodness in his instructions. But we must not infer from hence, that he did not include the love of our country in the number of our duties. He has shewn the contrary by his example. It appears that he possessed a particular affection for his country, though a very wicked country. We read in Luke x. 42, that when, upon approaching Jerusalem, in one of his last journies to it, he beheld it, he wept over it, and said, Oh! that thou hadst known (even thou, at least in this thy day) the things that belong to thy peace. What a tender solicitude about his country does the lamentation over Jerusalem imply, which is recorded in the same gospel, chap. xiii. and 34. Oh! Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent to thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, but ye would not.

It may not be improper farther to mention the love St. Paul expressed for his country, when he declared, that, for the sake of his brethren and kinsmen, he could even wish himself accursed from Christ. (Rom. ix. 3.) The original words are an anathema from Christ; and his meaning is, that he could have been contented to suffer himself the calamities which were coming on the Jewish people, were it possible for him, by such a sacrifice of himself, to save them.

It is too evident that the state of this country is such as renders it an object of concern and anxiety. It wants (I have shewn you) the grand security of public liberty. Increasing luxury has multiplied abuses in it. A monstrous weight of debt is crippling it. Vice and venality are bringing down upon it God’s displeasure. That spirit to which it owes its distinctions, is declining; and some late events seem to prove that it is becoming every day more reconcileable to encroachments on the securities of its liberties. It wants, therefore, your patriotic services; and, for the sake of the distinctions it has so long enjoyed; for the sake of our brethren and companions, and all that should be dear to a free people, we ought to do our utmost to save it from the dangers that threaten it; remembering, that by acting thus, we shall promote, in the best manner, our own private interest, as well as the interest of our country; for when the community prospers, the individuals that compose it must prosper with it. But, should that not happen, or should we even suffer in our secular interest by our endeavours to promote the interest of our country, we shall feel a satisfaction in our own breasts which is preferable to all Edition: current; Page: [1027] this world can give; and we shall enjoy the transporting hope of soon becoming members of a perfect community in the heavens, and having an entrance ministered to us, abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

You may reasonably expect, that I should now close this address to you. But I cannot yet dismiss you. I must not conclude without recalling, particularly, to your recollection, a consideration to which I have more than once alluded, and which, probably, your thoughts have been all along anticipating: A consideration with which my mind is impressed more than I can express. I mean, the consideration of the favourableness of the present times to all exertions in the cause of public liberty.

What an eventful period is this! I am thankful that I have lived to it; and I could almost say, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. I have lived to see a diffusion of knowledge, which has undermined superstition and error—I have lived to see the rights of men better understood than ever; and nations panting for liberty, which seemed to have lost the idea of it. I have lived to see thirty millions of people, indignant and resolute, spurning at slavery, and demanding liberty with an irresistible voice; their king led in triumph, and an arbitrary monarch surrendering himself to his subjects. After sharing in the benefits of one revolution, I have been spared to be a witness to two other revolutions, both glorious. And now, methinks, I see the ardour for liberty catching and spreading; a general amendment beginning in human affairs; the dominion of kings changed for the dominion of laws, and the dominion of priests giving way to the dominion of reason and conscience.

Be encouraged, all ye friends of freedom, and writers in its defence! The times are auspicious. Your labours have not been in vain. Behold kingdoms, admonished by you, starting from sleep, breaking their fetters, and claiming justice from their oppressors! Behold, the light you have struck out, after setting America free, reflected to France, and there kindled into a blaze that lays despotism in ashes, and warms and illuminates Europe!

Tremble all ye oppressors of the world! Take warning all ye supporters of slavish governments, and slavish hierarchies! Call no more (absurdly and wickedly) reformation, innovation. You cannot now Edition: current; Page: [1028] hold the world in darkness. Struggle no longer against increasing light and liberality. Restore to mankind their rights; and consent to the correction of abuses, before they and you are destroyed together.

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james dana the african slave trade fpage="1029" lpage="1056"


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James Dana (1735–1812). A graduate of Harvard and an Old Light Congregationalist minister, Dana became pastor in Wallingford, Connecticut, in 1758, an event that precipitated a flurry of pamphlets between partisans of the Old and New Light factions that came to be called the Wallingford Controversy. (See Leonard Bacon, Thirteen Historical Discourses, [1839].) Though he overcame this inauspicious beginning to his career, gaining the admiration of his clerical colleagues generally, he continued through the years to argue the merits of the Old Divinity against the New and, hence, against the doctrines of both the elder and the younger Jonathan Edwards and their allies, Doctors Bellamy, Hopkins, and West. Early on, he strongly declared for American independence. Dana became pastor of the First Church of New Haven in 1789, a position he held until 1805, when he lost out to the brilliant preaching of Moses Stuart and was dismissed by the council. He received a D.D. from the University of Edinburgh, and he married three times. Senator and lawyer Samuel Whittelsey Dana was his son by his first wife, Cathrine Whittelsey. Dana continued to live in New Haven until his death.

The African Slave Trade (1791), delivered in New Haven before the Connecticut Society for the Promotion of Freedom, demonstrates Dana’s abolitionist convictions. A truly remarkable document, it is one of the mere handful of his published sermons.

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So then, brethren, we are not children of the bond-woman, but of the free.

Epistle to the Galatians, IV. 31.

The churches of Galatia consisted principally of Jewish converts, who were engaged to incorporate the Mosaic ritual with the Christian profession. They boasted, at the same time, “We be Abraham’s children, and were never in bondage.” With great address and pertinency St. Paul reminds them, “Abraham had two sons; one by a bond-maid, the other by a free-woman.” These were emblems of the two covenants. Ishmael, by Hagar the bond-woman, represented the Sinai covenant; Isaac, by Sarah the free-woman, represented the Abrahamic covenant. The former was local and temporary, founded in worldly promises, had burthensome appendages, and only a shadow of heavenly things. The latter was universal and permanent, a covenant of better hopes, and stripped of that ceremonial which was a yoke of bondage.

The apostle hath described the Christian church in distinction from the Jewish thus: The Jews under Moses were like an heir in his minority, who is under tutors and governors. The law was a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ. He came to redeem them that were under the law; that they might be no longer servants, but sons; heirs of full age, heirs of God through Christ. “Now we, brethren, are the children of promise, as was Isaac,” with whom the covenant of better hopes was established. We are not children of the bond-woman, but of the free.

The apostle proceeds: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” The Sinai covenant was subservient to the Abrahamic, till the seed promised to Abraham came. When this seed came, that covenant had answered its purpose, and gave place to a more liberal one. The Jewish converts acknowledged that this seed was come: But they encroached on the liberty of their fellow-Christians, by attempting to compel their observance of the abrogated ordinances of Moses. This was falling from grace, cutting themselves off from the privileges of the children of the free-woman, and desiring Edition: current; Page: [1034] again to be in bondage to weak and beggarly rudiments. It was returning to a state of minority, after the time appointed of the father for their majority and freedom.

The apostle further acquaints them, that “the blessing of Abraham was come on the gentiles through Jesus Christ.” For the promise was thus expressed: “In thee shall all nations be blessed.” There is therefore no difference, under the Christian institution, between Jews and other nations. The latter, though by nature in bondage, are made equally free of the family of Christ as the former. This is the fulfilment of the prediction, “I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. Where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there shall they be called the children of the living God.” The text, though immediately addressed to Jewish believers, is equally applicable to believing gentiles. These are not, any more than those, children of the bond-woman, but of the free. They are “all one in Christ Jesus—children of God, whether Jew or Greek, bond or free, male or female—If Christ’s, then Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Christian freedom, being alike the privilege of converts from Judaism and heathenism, primarily intends, on the part of the former, the abolition of the encumbered ritual of Moses; and, on the part of the latter, liberation from idolatrous superstition, to which they were in servile subjection: On the part of both it intends deliverance from the slavery of vicious passions.

When Christ appeared, the whole world were sunk in ignorance and wickedness. The gentiles, professing themselves to be wise, knew not God, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator. They were vassals to the prince of the power of the air. The Christian dispensation, accompanied with the holy Ghost sent down from heaven, called them out of darkness into marvelous light; they were turned from dumb idols, from the power of Satan, from worldly pollutions, to serve the living God. The Jewish church had corrupted and made void the law of God. Their guides taught for doctrines the commandments of men, perverted to a worldly sense the promises of spiritual redemption, and imposed a greater burthen of ceremonies than Moses had enjoined. Christ removed the vail of Moses, consecrated a new and living way to God, rescued the precepts of the decalogue from the glosses of blind and interested guides, and disburthened religion Edition: current; Page: [1035] of that weight under which it had groaned. His yoke is easy, and his burthen light. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty in the highest sense. The spirit of life in Christ removes the dominion of sin. His disciples, made free from sin, walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. There is no condemnation to them. Thus emancipated, they “wait for the hope of righteousness by faith—the redemption of the body.” When made free of the kingdom promised them, sin and the curse, pain, sorrow, death shall be no more. How glorious this liberty!

Further: Christianity is a reasonable service, and founded in personal persuasion. It permits us to “call no man master; for one is our master, even Christ”; to whom alone every one must stand or fall. His religion is friendly to free enquiry: It directs us to “prove all things”—to claim the liberty of grounding our faith, not on the wisdom of man, but the power of God; and to allow others the same. Our liberty may not be judged of their consciences, nor their liberty of our conscience. They who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak; and should take heed lest by any means their liberty, their improved knowledge in Christianity, should be a stumbling block to uninformed minds. “Use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. There is one body, and one spirit, and we are called in one hope. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.”

How then should different professors, and different denominations, endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, with all meekness, humility and charity? The body of Christ is one, and hath many members. The members then “should have the same care one for another. If one suffer, all the members should suffer with it; or if one be honoured, all the members should rejoice with it.” Those are carnal, and walk as men, who contend for the system of this or that man, or body of men. The children of the bond-woman would exclude from the privileges of the Christian church, and doom to eternal chains, such as do not embrace the faith or opinions they hold: But the children of the free-woman have not so learned Christ. The simplicity and perspicuity of this heavenly institution, designed to guide men of common understanding in the paths of salvation, can derive no assistance from speculations too high for the generality of mankind—too high also for those who exercise themselves therein.

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In going off from one extreme, let us shun the other. “We are called unto liberty”: Should it be an occasion of infidelity and indifference to all religion, the guilt and shame must be aggravated. The real friends of liberty always distinguish between freedom and licentiousness. They know that the mind cannot be free, while blinded by sceptical pride, or immersed in sensuality. Liberty consists not in subverting the foundations of society, in being without law. Nor doth it consist in reasoning against God, and providence, and revelation. Nor in attempting to explain his nature, his government, and the secret things which belong to him.

Christian liberty supposeth that we receive the record which God hath given of his Son—that we be not the servants of sin, but have our fruit unto holiness—that we abide in our callings.

Lastly, The spirit of Christianity hath the best aspect on general liberty and the rights of mankind. Would we persuade men to look, not on their own things, but on the things of others, let us set before them the pattern of Christ. Was ever grace or liberality like his, “who though he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich?” He was “in the form of God,—but took upon him the form of a servant.” He “came not to be ministred unto, but to minister, and gave his life” to purchase spiritual and eternal redemption for the slaves of Satan. Possibly for a friend, or a good man, some might dare to die. But he died for enemies, for the ungodly. Is it glorious to die for one’s country? He died for all the world. Were the same mind in us, we should love all mankind, and do good to all as we have opportunity. They who hate and persecute us would be the objects of our good wishes and forgiveness. We should pray, “Father, forgive them.” We should have compassion on them, as the good Samaritan had on the Jew whom he found helpless and ready to perish. Every natural and friendly, every private and public affection is cherished and improved by looking unto Jesus. And if we speak of universal philanthropy, how doth every example fade before his? He is not ashamed to call mankind his brethren. His love to them was stronger than death, when they had forfeited the privileges of children, and might have been consigned, with apostate spirits, to chains and blackness of darkness. They owe all the liberty they have or hope for to his friendship.

Where the spirit of Christ is, there is no envy, strife or confusion; no discord and war; no invasion of the rights of others, either those of Edition: current; Page: [1037] individuals, or of societies and nations; but meekness, peace, and harmony, joy in the happiness, and commiseration of the distresses of others. This spirit doth no ill to others, but all possible good. Rulers, under its influence, are not oppressors, but benefactors. Subjects do not resist lawful authority; but render tribute, custom, fear, honour to whom they are due, leading a quiet life in godliness and honesty. When the spirit of Christianity shall universally prevail, as our hope is that it will, nations will “learn war no more; they shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain.”

Our Lord undertook not to say what men’s personal and civil rights are—what the prerogatives of princes, or the sovereign power of a nation, and what the privileges of subjects. He left civil distinctions among men as he found them. He taught his disciples to “render to Cesar the things that are Cesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.[”]

Among other relative duties, his religion particularly requires of servants, that they be subject to their masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward: Shewing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. Let every man wherein he is called, therein abide with God. Let as many servants as are under the yoke, account their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren.

Revelation has not informed us, what form of government is best adapted to answer the ends of society. Every form must be some abridgment of natural liberty. Our being social creatures, our dependence on one another, shew that government is the will of the Creator. The original form was probably patriarchal. The theocracy of the Jews was appropriate to them. Monarchy was a subversion of their constitution. No other form than theirs can be pronounced divine. Nations have a right to institute such form as they chuse. The government of most nations, therefore, hath been mere usurpation. Far from being sanctioned by divine authority, we might rather consider the permission of such government as his greatest scourge on mankind.

Relying on the candor which I need from my present auditory, I address myself more particularly to the design of our coming together.

A manner of address calculated to inflame the passions would Edition: current; Page: [1038] neither become my station, nor be respectful to an audience well acquainted with the rights of men and citizens, educated in principles of liberty.

The Africans belong to the families for whom heaven designed a participation in the blessing of Abraham. We need not discuss the question, what the state of those, whom the Europeans have enslaved, was antecedently to such their slavery. It is more proper to enquire when and how the African slave-trade commenced—what nations have engaged in it—in what manner they have carried it on—what the probable numbers they have reduced to slavery—in what condition these slaves are held—and what reasons are offered in vindication of the trade.

A zeal for the discovery of new territory marked the fifteenth century. The first navigations of the Europeans for this purpose were concerted and directed by prince Henry, fourth son of John I. king of Portugal. He was born 1394. His valor in the assault and capture of the city Ceuta in Africa, A. D. 1415, presaged the fame he afterwards acquired. From this period he devoted himself to naval expeditions for the discovery of unknown countries. The ships he sent out subjected divers parts of Africa, and the neighbouring islands, to the dominion of Portugal. After the success in doubling cape Bojador, he gave to his father and his successors all the lands he had discovered, or might discover, and applied to pope Martin V. to ratify the donation. He engaged, that in all their expeditions the Portuguese should have mainly in view the extension of the Roman church and authority of its pontif. Martin granted the prince’s request. In his bull of ratification, which was about the year 1430, it is declared, that “whatever might be discovered from the said cape to the utmost India, should pertain to the Portuguese’ dominion.” Edward, brother to prince Henry, succeeded to the throne of Portugal 1433, on the death of John I. Pope Eugene IV, by his bull in 1438, ratified to Edward the grant made by Martin V. A bull of Nicholas V. dated January 8, 1454, refers to the aforesaid bulls of his predecessors, Martin and Eugene. It recites the declaration prince Henry had made of his atchievements —“that for 25 years he had not ceased to send annually almost an army” of Portuguese, “with the greatest dangers, labors and charges, in most swift ships, to search out the sea and maritime provinces towards the southern parts and antarctic pole”—that these ships “came at Edition: current; Page: [1039] length to the province of Guinea, and took possession of some islands, havens and sea adjoining”—that “sailing further, war was waged for some years with the people of those parts, and very many islands near thereunto were subdued and peaceably possessed, and still were possessed, with the adjacent sea”—that “many Guineans and other negroes were taken thence by force, and some by barter.” The bull describes prince Henry as “a true soldier of Christ, a most courageous defender and intrepid champion of the faith, aspiring from his early youth with his utmost might to have the glorious name of Christ published, extolled and revered throughout the world.” It recogniseth the exclusive right of Portugal to the acquisitions and possessions aforesaid, in virtue of the letters of Martin and Eugene, which granted to the king of Portugal and prince Henry “free and ample faculty to invade, search out, expugn, vanquish and subdue all pagans and enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and their persons to reduce to perpetual slavery, and all their kingdoms, possessions and goods to apply and appropriate,” &c. Pope Nicholas’s letter then goes on to “decree and declare, the acquests already made, and what hereafter shall happen to be acquired, after that they shall be acquired, have pertained, and forever of right do belong and pertain, to the aforesaid king and his successors, and not to any others whatever.” It forbids, on the severest penalties, all Christian powers from settling in the countries discovered by the Portuguese, or any way molesting them in their expeditions for the discovery and conquest of unknown countries. It speaks of prince Henry’s plan and his prosecution of it as “a most pious work, and most worthy of perpetual remembrance, wherein the glory of God, with the interest of the commonwealth of the universal church are concerned.”

Thus were prince Henry’s views and operations sanctioned by the highest authority at that time acknowledged in Christendom. A right derived from a source so venerable was then undisputed. The Roman pontif bound princes at his pleasure; and, as vicar of Christ, was allowed to have at his disposal all the kingdoms of the earth. This grant of Nicholas was confirmed by his successor, Calixtus III. August 6, 1458.

On the death of Edward, his son Alphonsus, then in his minority, succeeded to the throne of Portugal 1438, and died 1481. Prince Henry died 1460, or 1463. At his death the spirit of discovery languished; Edition: current; Page: [1040] but revived with the accession of John II. son of Alphonsus. John, the year after his accession (1482), sent an embassy to Edward IV. of England, to acquaint him with the title acquired, by the pope’s bull, to the conquest in Guinea; and requested him to dissolve a fleet which some English merchants were fitting for the Guinea trade. The king of England shewed great respect to the ambassadors, and granted all they required. The king of Portugal assumed, and the king of England gave him, this style, Rex Portugaliœ et Algarbiorum citra at ultra mare in Africa. Pope Sixtus IV. not long before his death, which was August 12, 1484, confirmed all the grants made by his predecessors to the kings of Portugal and their successors.*

“In 1481 John II. sent 100 artificers, 500 soldiers, and all necessaries, to build a fort in Guinea. The large kingdoms of Benin and Congo were discovered 1484, 1485”; and the cape of Good-Hope 1486. The Portuguese built forts and planted colonies in Africa; “established a commercial intercourse with the powerful kingdoms, and compelled the petty princes by force of arms to acknowledge themselves vassals.”

At this period, and by these means, the power and commerce of the Portuguese in Africa were well established. The wholesome decrees of five successive Roman pontifs granted, conveyed and confirmed to the most faithful king a right to appropriate the kingdoms, goods and possessions of all infidels, wherever to be found, to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, or destroy them from the earth, for the declared purpose of bringing the Lord’s sheep into one dominical fold, under one universal pastor. Succeeding kings of Portugal have not forfeited the large grant by any undutifulness to their holy father. Portugal long enjoyed the trade to Africa and the East-Indies without the interference of any European power. For more than half a century before she exported any Negroes from Africa, she made and held many of them slaves in their native country.

The Portuguese first imported slaves into Hispaniola, A. D. 1508, and into their Brazilian colonies 1517. Their sugar works were first set up in these colonies 1580. Their union with Spain at that time Edition: current; Page: [1041] was most unfortunate for them. Hence the Dutch became their enemies, who took from them their East-India and Brazilian conquests, and part of their African colonies. They recovered Brazil, and their African establishments 1640; but have never recovered the riches of India.

After the Dutch quitted Brazil, and the gold mines were discovered, the trade of Portugal improved, and a great importation of slaves took place. “They carry yearly from Loango to the Brazils 25,000.” At Goango “they get abundance.” At cape Lopos they “get a great many.” They themselves say, “that they carry over to Brazil 50,000 and more every year from Melinda” on the Mozambique coast. Such hath been the increase of their Brazilian and African colonies for about a century past, that they “have taken off since the year 1700 more English goods annually than Portugal and Spain had before done.”* From their greater dominions, and greater extent of territory, in Africa, than any other European power, this quarter of the world “is not of less consideration to them, perhaps, than to all the other powers of Europe unitedly comprehended—It supplies them with Negroes in abundance, to carry on their sugar works, mines, and planting business in the Brazils. They are said to bring annually from the Brazils £.5,000,000 sterling in gold, coined and uncoined.”

“It is difficult to ascertain the number of slaves, which the Portuguese Edition: current; Page: [1042] residing in Africa have in possession. Those who are least rich have fifty, an hundred, or two hundred belonging to them, and many of the most considerable possess at least three thousand. A religious society at Loanda have of their own 12,000 of all nations.” (Beawes, lex mercatoria, p. 790, 791.)

Spanish America hath successively received her slaves from the Genoese, Portuguese, French and English. A convention was made at London between England and Spain, A. D. 1689, for supplying the Spanish West-Indies with negro slaves from Jamaica.* The French Guinea company contracted, in 1702, to supply them with 38,000 negroes, in ten years; and if peace should be concluded, with 48,000. In 1713 there was a treaty between England and Spain for the importation of 144,000 negroes in thirty years, or 4,800 annually. If we include those whom the Portuguese have held in slavery in Africa, with the importations into South-America, twelve millions may be a moderate estimate from the commencement of the traffic to the present time.

We shall now attend to the importations into the West-India islands and the United States.

The English fitted out three ships for the slave trade in 1562. For a full century this trade hath been vigorously pursued, without intermission, by England, France and Holland; as it had been long before, and continued to be, by Portugal.

“The trade of Barbadoes, in 1661, maintained 400 sail of ships of 150 tons one with another, and 10,000 seamen. The running cash was computed at £.200,000 at least. In 1676 this island had 80,000 negroes. In one hundred years the inhabitants of Great-Britain have received £.12,000,000 in silver by means of this plantation. On a parliamentary enquiry into the African trade 1728, it appeared that in three years only, 42,000 slaves had been imported at Barbadoes, Jamaica and Antigua, besides what were carried to their other islands.”§

In pursuance of an order from the king of France, a survey was made in 1777, of the slaves in the French islands, when the number Edition: current; Page: [1043] returned was 386,500.* The council of Paris determined, that an annual importation of 20,000 was necessary to supply the annual decrease. (Anderson, vol. V. p. 276.)

The number of slaves in the several British West-India islands is stated by Anderson at 410,000, (vol. VI. p. 921, 922.) A later account makes them 461,669.

“Since the peace of 1763,” saith M. le Abbe Raynal, “Great-Britain hath sent annually to the coast of Guinea 195 vessels, consisting, collectively, of 23,000 tons, and 7 or 8,000 seamen. Rather more than half this number have sailed from Liverpool, and the remainder from London, Bristol and Lancaster. They have traded for 40,000 slaves.” An average for each vessel will be 205. Postlethwait informs us, that in 1752 eighty eight vessels from Liverpool to Africa brought away 25,940 slaves.§ If the Liverpool vessels brought away this number, we may suppose that those of London and Bristol made up the full number of 40,000.

M. le Abbe Raynal saith (probably without sufficient attention, vol. IV. p. 99.), “The trade of Africa hath never furnished the French colonies more than 13 or 14,000 slaves annually.” This importation, he grants, was “insufficient” for her colonies. It doth not correspond to the number of slaves in them. If the trade had not furnished a sufficiency for themselves, would they have contracted to Edition: current; Page: [1044] supply Spain with 4,000 slaves annually for ten successive years? “Good judges,” saith Postlethwait (vol. I. p. 726.), “reckon that 30,000 negroes are annually imported into the French sugar islands.” But we will suppose they import 20,000 into these islands. This is the importation which their council supposed requisite to supply the decrease. The general computation is five per cent. decrease annually.

The present number of slaves in the West-Indies is 930,669.* There are in the United States 670,633. To this number may be added about 12,000 manumitted Africans. In all 1,613,302. Were the mortality among them as great in the five states south of Delaware as in the West-Indies, the above number could not be kept up but by an annual importation of 80,000. The probability is, that 70,000 hath been the annual average for a century at least.

In seventy seven years there were imported into Jamaica 535,549. By the census of the United States, taken 1791, they contain 3,925,247 souls.* Of these, in the states south of Delaware, more Edition: current; Page: [1045] Edition: current; Page: [1046] than one quarter are negro slaves. In the four states next north of Maryland are 45,401 slaves. In New-England 3870. There may have been brought into all the West-India-Islands, and into the United States, from first to last, seven millions. One million more must be allowed for mortality on the passage. How many have been destroyed in the collection of them in Africa, we cannot justly conjecture. It is judged that Great-Britain sustain the loss of twice as many seamen in this, as in all their other extensive trade.

We suppose, then, that eight millions of slaves have been shipped in Africa for the West-India islands and the United States; ten millions for South-America; and, perhaps, two millions have been taken and held in slavery in Africa. Great-Britain and the United States have shipped about five millions, France two, Holland and other nations one; though we undertake not to state the proportion with exactness. The other twelve millions we set to Portugal. Twenty million slaves, at £.30 sterling each, amount to the commercial value of £.600,000,000. Six hundred times ten hundred thousand pounds sterling traffic in the souls of men!!!

By whom hath this commerce been opened, and so long and ardently pursued? The subjects of their most faithful, most catholic, most Christian, most protestant majesties, defenders of the faith; and by the citizens of the most republican States, with the sanction of St. Peter’s Edition: current; Page: [1047] successor. Unprovoked, without any pretended injury, these have kindled and kept alive the flame of war through three quarters of the continent of Africa; that is, all the interior as well as maritime parts south of Senegal and Abyssinia. These have taught the Africans to steal, sell and murder one another. On any or no pretence the different tribes make prisoners of each other, or the chiefs seize their own people, and drive them, as herds of cattle, to market. The natives are trepanned by one another, and by the Europeans; forced from their flocks, and fields, and tenderest connexions. This vile commerce hath depopulated the sea-coast: It must now be carried on in the inland parts.

As though it were not sufficient to force the Africans from their country, and every thing dear to them, they are made to travel in irons hundreds of miles through their native soil, through sands and morasses, down to the sea shore; and there stowed, as lumber, for transportation. The cruelty of the captains of the Guinea ships, in many instances, is not inferior to that of Clive or Hastings.

The servitude of the greatest part of the slaves after their arrival, the scantiness of their provision and its bad quality, their tyrannical and merciless discipline, are well known, and too painful to recollect. It is a law in Barbadoes, “that if any slave, under punishment by his master or his order, suffer in life or limb, no person shall be liable to any fine for the same. But if any man shall wantonly or cruelly kill his own slave, he shall pay into the treasury £.15.”

With what reason or truth is it urged, that the condition of the Africans is meliorated by their slavery? They, not their masters, are the proper judges in this matter. Wretched as you may suppose their condition was in Africa, the nefarious commerce of foreigners may have been the principal cause of that wretchedness. Should foreigners desist from this commerce, and the holders of slaves propose to transport them back to Africa, how would their mouth be filled with laughter, and their tongue with singing? Instead of thinking their condition meliorated by slavery, they most sincerely join in that execration on their oppressors: Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. The imaginary expectation that death may transport them to their own country is their chief consolation. Under unlimited power, accustomed to the most inhuman usage, no example of mercy relenting for them being exhibited, no marvel that the language of Edition: current; Page: [1048] insurgents is, Death or conquest. Their cries will sooner or later reach the ears of him to whom vengeance belongeth.

Will any one say, that their condition is meliorated by their being taught the knowledge of God and Christ? How many of their masters are in a state of brutal ignorance in this respect? A parish minister* in the West-Indies saith, that he “drew up plain and easy instructions for the slaves, invited them to attend at particular hours on Lord’s-day, appointed hours at home, and exhorted their masters to encourage their attendance. But inconceivable was the listlessness with which he was heard, and bitter the censure heaped on him in return. It was suggested, that he aimed to render them incapable of being good slaves by making them Christians—some who approved of the plan, did not think themselves obliged to co-operate: I stood,” says he, “a rebel convict against the interest and majesty of plantership.”

When Archbishop Secker asked what success the missionaries “had in baptizing and converting negro slaves? how the catechist at Coddrington college in Barbadoes proceeded with those slaves that belonged to the college estate,” and whom he presumed had been instructed in Christianity? He was answered, “I found one old negro, who told me he could say all his catechism. I asked him, if he did not find himself much happier and better since he became a Christian, than he was before? Why, sir, said he, I am old man, and as a driver am not put to common labour; but Christian not made for negro in this country. How so? What is your duty towards God? He repeated it. What is your duty towards your neighbor? Ah, master, I don’t say that no more. Why so? Because, master, I can’t say it from my heart, if I think of white man.”

Had African slaves the means of Christian instruction, had they been treated with humanity, still the making slaves of them hath been no more than doing evil that good may come. Christianity and humanity would rather have dictated the sending books and teachers into Africa, and endeavors for their civilization. Have they been treated as children of the same family with ourselves? as having the same Father, whose tender mercies are over all his works? as having the same Edition: current; Page: [1049] natural prerogatives with other nations? Or have they been treated as outcasts from humanity?*

The Greeks and Romans, amidst their improvements in philosophy, arts and sciences, established slavery as far as they extended their conquests. Their rage for conquest had the world for its object. They made war without having received any injury. Captives taken in war were exposed to sale. And indeed all the ancient nations considered conquest as a just foundation for slavery. Some moderns have undertaken to defend the same principle. In an age and country so well acquainted with the rights of men, this kind of reasoning merits very little attention. It is, moreover, wholly inapplicable to the case Edition: current; Page: [1050] of African slavery. Whatever just dominion conquerors may claim over the conquered must be founded in this, that the latter were the aggressors. Did the Africans first invade the rights of the nations who have carried on the slave trade? or give them a foundation of complaint? Were they ever conquered by their foreign invaders?

But the reasoning is not less unjust than inapplicable. The objects of a just war are the security of national rights, and indemnification for injuries. Superior force may enslave, but gives no right. It is inglorious, savage and brutal to insult a conquered enemy, and reduce him to the lowest servility.

“But did not the Jews make slaves of the Canaanites by the express command of God?” They did indeed. Those nations had filled up their measure of iniquity. The Supreme Sovereign devoted them to destruction, and commissioned Israel to be the executioners of his justice. “Thou mayest not,” said God, “consume them at once, lest the land become desolate, and the beasts of the field increase against thee. By little and little will I drive them out from before thee.” Of those nations, remaining in the land, they might purchase bond-servants, and transmit them as an inheritance to posterity. The Gibeonites, one of these devoted nations, obtained a league of peace with Joshua, under pretence that they were a very remote people. When their stratagem was detected, he saved them alive, because of his league; but he made them all bond-men, hewers of wood, and drawers of water (Lev. 25. 44, 45, 46. Joshua chap. 9th). When a like warrant can be produced, it will authorize a like practice.

“But Ishmael was the son of a bond-woman. His posterity therefore can have no claim to freedom.” This is not a just consequence; nor is this objection supported by history. The prophecy concerning Ishmael was, “He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” His posterity, the Arabians, have lived in war with the world. The Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Tartars and Turks have in vain attempted to subjugate them. They have been and are free and independent.

That the heathen have no right to any possession on earth, is an article of the Roman faith. The charters of Britain to her late colonies held out the same language. But is this the language of him, whose is “the world, and they that dwell therein”? who “hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth; and Edition: current; Page: [1051] determined the bounds of their habitation”? In enslaving the pagans of Africa, have the Christians of Europe and America proceeded on this principle, that the author of their religion, whose kingdom is not of this world, hath commissioned them to seize on the possessions, and, what is more, on the persons, of those heathen? Among the enumerated articles of commerce in mystical Babylon in the day of her fall, slaves and souls of men closeth the account—intimating that this kind of commerce was the consummation of her wickedness. Let such as imitate the example, consider the consequence.

  • Man’s obdurate heart does not feel for man.
  • He finds his fellow guilty of a skin
  • Not colour’d like his own; and having pow’r
  • T’ enforce the wrong, for such a worthy cause
  • Dooms and devotes him as his lawful prey.
  • Thus man devotes his brother, and destroys;
  • And worse than all, and most to be deplor’d,
  • As human nature’s broadest, foulest blot,
  • Chains him, tasks him, and exacts his sweat
  • With stripes, that mercy with a bleeding heart
  • Weeps when she sees inflicted on a beast.
  • Then what is man? And what man seeing this,
  • And having human feelings, does not blush,
  • And hang his head, to think himself a man?*

Our late warfare was expressly founded on such principles as these: “All men are created equal: They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Admitting these just principles, we need not puzzle ourselves with the question, whether a black complexion is a token of God’s wrath? If attempts to account for the color of the blacks, by ascribing it to climate, or the state of society, or both, should not be perfectly satisfactory (and perhaps they are not), shall we therefore conclude, that they did not spring from the same original parents? How then shall we account either for their origin or our own? The Mosaic, which is the only account of the origin of mankind, doth not inform us what was the complexion of Adam and Eve.

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If we admit the Mosaic account, we cannot suppose that the Africans are of a different species from us: If we reject it, we have no account whence they or we sprang. Let us then receive the Mosaic history of the creation, till another and better appears. According to that, the Africans are our brethren. And, according to the principles of our religion, they are children of the free-woman as well as we. This instructs us, that God is no respecter of persons, or of nations—hath put no difference between Jew and Greek, barbarian and Scythian. In Christ Jesus, in whom it was foretold “all nations shall be blessed,” those “who sometimes were far off, are brought nigh, and have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” So that they “are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the houshold of God.” The heathen will all be given him for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession.

Why then should we treat our African brethren as the elder son in the parable treated the younger, offended at the compassion of their common parent towards him? Why place them in a situation incapable of recovery from their lost state? their state of moral death? Did Jesus come to redeem us from the worst bondage? Shall his disciples then enslave those whom he came to redeem from slavery? who are the purchase of his blood? Is this doing to others, as he hath commanded, whatsoever we would that they should do to us? Is it to love our neighbour as ourselves?

On a view of the wretched servitude of the Africans, some may suspect, that they must have been sinners above all men, because they suffer such things. This way of reasoning, however common, our Lord has reproved—particularly in the instance of the blind man; of those who were slain by the fall of the tower in Siloam; and of those whose blood Pilate mingled with the public sacrifices. All mankind are the offspring of God. His government over them is parental. Children may have the fullest proof that the government of their father is not capricious and tyrannic, but most wise and kind: At the same time, they cannot explain many parts of it; but unreservedly submit to his pleasure, having the fullest confidence in his superior wisdom, his paternal care and affection.

That such as have been educated in slavish principles, justify and practise slavery, may not seem strange. Those who profess to understand Edition: current; Page: [1053] and regard the principles of liberty should cheerfully unite to abolish slavery.

Our middle and northern states have prohibited any further importation of slaves. South-Carolina passed a prohibitory act for a limited time. Consistently with the federal constitution the traffic may be stopped in seventeen years; and a duty of ten dollars may be laid on every slave now imported. By an act of the legislature of Connecticut, all blacks and mulattoes born within the state from March 1784, will be manumitted at the age of 25 years. The act of Pennsylvania liberates them at the age of twenty eight years. Such provision hath been made for the gradual abolition of slavery in the United States. Could wisdom and philanthropy have advanced further for the time?

In the northern division of the United States, the slaves live better than one quarter of the white people. Their masters are possessed of property; nor is harder labor required of the slaves, than a great part of the masters perform themselves. Might the estate of the masters be exempt from the maintenance of their slaves, but very few would hesitate to manumit them.

In co-operating with the wise measures and benevolent intentions of the legislature of Connecticut, we shall do as much as can be desired to ease the condition of slavery, and extinguish the odious distinction. Humane masters, requiring no more than is just and equal, and affording to their servants the means of moral and religious instruction, take the only sure course to make them faithful. Many receive such kind treatment, and have such affection to their masters, that they wish to abide with them. Nor is it to be doubted but many others, who may wish to be manumitted, would soon repent their choice. Still the term slave is odious, be the master’s yoke ever so light. And it is very questionable whether any servant can be profitable who is not a voluntary one.

The revolution in the United States hath given free course to the principles of liberty. One ancient kingdom, illuminated by these principles, and actuated by the spirit of liberty, hath established a free constitution. The spirit will spread, and shake the throne of despotic princes. Neither an habit of submission to arbitrary rule in church and state, nor the menaced interference of neighboring kingdoms, could prevent, or counterwork, a revolution, propitious in its Edition: current; Page: [1054] aspect on the rights of other nations, and of mankind. No combination of European potentates can impede the progress of freedom. The time is hastening, when their subjects will not endure to be told, that no government shall exist in any nation but such as provides for the perpetuation of absolute monarchy, and the transmission of it to the families in present possession. The time is hastening, when no monarch in Europe shall tell his subjects, Your silver and your gold are mine.

The present occasion will be well improved, if we set ourselves to banish all slavish principles, and assert our liberty as men, citizens and Christians. We have all one Father: He will have all his offspring to be saved. We are disciples of one master: He will finally gather together in one the children of God. Let us unite in carrying into effect the purpose of the Saviour’s appearance. This was to give peace and good will to man, and thus bring glory to God on high.

Being “one body in Christ, and every one members one of another”; we should take care “that there be no schism in the body.” They who separate themselves, or separate others, without cause, are schismatics. Christ is not divided. A religious party is of all others the most odious and dangerous. The terms express a palpable contradiction. The dire effects of proselyting zeal in Romish, and even in Protestant, countries would have been prevented, had Christian liberty been understood, and the exercise of it permitted.

Whether ignorance or learning, weakness or craft, have bound the heaviest burthens in religion, we need not enquire. Each of them hath done much in this way in ages past. Happily for the present age of light and liberty, the spirit of bigotry and domination cannot encumber and debase Christianity as heretofore. The exercise of private judgment, an appeal to the scriptures, and the cultivation of Christian charity and philanthropy, will display the excellency of our religion.

To conclude: In vain do we assert our natural and civil liberty, or contend for the same liberty in behalf of any of our fellow-creatures, provided we ourselves are not made free from the condemnation and dominion of sin. If there is such a thing as slavery, the servant of sin is a slave—and self-made. The captive, prisoner and slave, in an outward respect, may be free in Christ, free indeed; while he who enjoys full external liberty, may, in regard to his inward man, be under the power of wicked spirits: These enter and dwell in an heart garnished to receive them. Jesus Christ, and no other, saveth from sin and Edition: current; Page: [1055] wrath. The spirit of life quickeneth those who are dead in trespasses, and looseth those whom Satan hath bound. “If we be dead with him, we believe that we shall also live with him.”

The new Jerusalem is free in a more exalted sense than the church on earth. True believers, “sealed with the holy Spirit of promise, have the earnest of their inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession.” In that day of complete redemption, of glorious liberty, may God of his infinite mercy grant that we may meet all the ransomed of the Lord, with songs and everlasting joy, saying: “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne; and unto the lamb who was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. Amen.”

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Israel Evans (1747–1807). A contemporary of James Madison at the College of New Jersey, Evans was graduated in 1772 and was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1776. As a chaplain throughout the Revolutionary War with the New Hampshire brigade commanded by General Enoch Poor, he was involved in the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, in the campaign of 1779 against Joseph Brant’s Iroquois Indians, and in the victory at Yorktown in 1781, where he preached to the combined American and French forces under Lafayette. He became the second settled minister of Concord, New Hampshire, serving from 1789 until 1797, when he resigned. He remained in the town until his death. Dartmouth College awarded Evans an A.M. degree in 1792.

An animated and patriotic preacher, Evans saw the wonder-working hand of Providence in every event of the Revolutionary War and in the national glory looming beyond the triumph over British tyranny, a glory that would blend with the fulfillment of God’s plan for the world. The election sermon reprinted here was preached in Concord in 1791 before the General Court of the state of New Hampshire.

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Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Galatians V. 1.
Friends and Fellow-Citizens,

We have numbered more than twenty-seven years since your opposition to a foreign system of heavy oppression began. The year 1764 has been rendered memorable, on the one side by the folly and injustice of a hated stamp-act, and, on the other, by the resisting energy of the patriot sons of freedom. From that period, the genius of American liberty, by combating distress, misery, and hosts of enemies, waxed strong in her own defence, and hath crowned more than three millions of mankind with national independence. Instructed in the school of freedom, the inhabitants of these confederate states combined their strength in the protection of the rights of men. They knew and they felt that freemen will be free. By their exertions, under the favour of a righteous providence, they have established a wise constitution of federal government: they have reached the consummation of every patriot’s wish, the glory and felicity of their country; and now enjoy a free system of political happiness, such as gives pleasure, and even transport, to the enlightened patriots of many nations; and has made, perhaps, no small advancement of joy among the benevolent hosts of heaven: for, to every benevolent and virtuous being, the freedom and happiness of the human race is a most pleasing consideration. But there are some men, with the means of public prosperity in their possession, who do not realize the value of freedom; they partake of the common blessings of a free people, and yet are not conscious of national felicity. This, however, does not lessen the real worth of liberty; for in every situation of life, it is the richest inheritance. In true liberty is included, freedom, both moral and civil; it has nothing in contemplation but the happiness of mankind, and therefore it is the principal glory of man; and, in this world, there can be nothing more dignified, or more exalted. Without civil and religious liberty, man is indeed a poor, enslaved, wretched, miserable creature; neither his life, nor his property, nor the use of his conscience, is secured to him; but he is subjected to some inhuman tyrant, whose will is his Edition: current; Page: [1062] law, and who presumes to govern men without their consent. But let not this gale of honest zeal carry us beyond the recollection of our text.

In the discussion of the text, it may be observed, that the word liberty, in this place, does principally imply a freedom from the injunctions of the ceremonial law. This freedom our Saviour purchased for all Christians; and in this freedom the apostle Paul exhorted the Galatians, and all the followers of Christ, to stand fast. When we consider the age, and state of the world, in which the Jews lived, and their fondness of show, idolatry, and superstition, we shall find that their religion was well suited to their genius and temper. The religion of the Jews had a very pointed allusion to the character and office of the Messiah, and was therefore wisely enjoined. But those typical and ritual services, after the coming of Christ, having fulfilled their design, became unnecessary. “These, said the apostle Paul, were a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ, who hath abolished the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” Without the external pomp and show of the Jewish religion, the gospel recommends the worship of God in spirit and truth. The doctrines of the gospel are calculated to promote good will and liberty among men; and where their genuine influence has been extended, mankind have been rendered more happy: they have been instructed, civilized, humanized, and made free. “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” The true spirit of the Gospel contains the true spirit of liberty. We may be assured, that under this benevolent institution, useful liberty of every kind is recommended by the spirit of our text.

Altho my text, in the original meaning, did not respect civil so much as religious liberty, yet I hope I shall not seem to misuse it by making it the foundation of a discourse on liberty in general.

A few observations on the nature of religious liberty, shall constitute the first part of this discourse.

I. Religious liberty is a divine right, immediately derived from the Supreme Being, without the intervention of any created authority. It is the natural privilege of worshipping God in that manner which, according to the judgment of men, is most agreeable and pleasing to the divine character. As the conscience of man is the image and representative of God in the human soul; so to him alone it is responsible. Edition: current; Page: [1063] In justice, therefore, the feelings and sentiments of conscience, and the moral practice of religion, must be independent of all finite beings. Nor hath the all-wise Creator invested any order of men with the right of judging for their fellow-creatures in the great concerns of religion. Truth and religion are subjects of determination entrusted to all men; and it is a privilege of all men to judge and determine for themselves.

Religious liberty secures every man, both in his person and property, from suffering on account of his peculiar sentiments in religion; and no practice which flows purely from this fountain of natural right can justly be punished. But when a man adopts such notions as, in their practice, counteract the peace and good order of society, he then perverts and abuses the original liberty of man; and were he to suffer for thus disturbing the peace of the community, and injuring his fellow-citizens, his punishment would be inflicted not for the exercise of a virtuous principle of conscience, but for violating that universal law of rectitude and benevolence which was intended to prevent one man from injuring another. To punish men for entertaining various religious sentiments, is to assume a power to punish them for doing what God gave them an unalienable right to do. For neither the principles of reason, nor the doctrines of the gospel, which are the perfection of reason, have empowered any man to judge for himself and for another man also: this is religious tyranny; this is to controul another man’s conscience: and to controul any man’s conscience is to contradict that true principle of eternal justice which Jesus Christ published to the world: Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.

Suffer me a little to illustrate this maxim of primitive justice. We will suppose, that some man should endeavour to prove, that he had a right to determine what our religious principles and sentiments ought to be; but how would he be pleased when his own arguments should be turned against himself? Should this man, who was unwilling to allow us the free exercise of rational, accountable creatures, be forced, in the change of human affairs, to reside among a people very different from him in matters of religion; he however behaving himself as an honest and peaceable man, and, as a good subject of civil society, serving the interest of the country; would he not think it very unjust and tyrannical to be persecuted for his religious opinions—imprisoned, Edition: current; Page: [1064] deprived of his property, and finally condemned to die, only because he could not with a clear conscience worship as they did? Only the Supreme Governour of mankind has a perfect right to receive the homage of the human mind; it is his peculiar prerogative to controul the consciences of men by his infinitely wise and equitable laws. True religion must therefore be founded in the inward persuasion and conviction of the mind; for without this it cannot be that reasonable service which is pleasing to God. The human understanding cannot be convinced by external violence of any kind; nor can the immaterial spirit be influenced by the laws of men, unless they correspond with the goodness, justice, and mercy, of our blessed Creator, our most bountiful Benefactor, and our all wise and righteous Judge. Here joy and gratitude prompt me to say, Oh happy people, who live in this land and in this age of religious liberty! here every man has equally the freedom of choosing his religion; and may sit every man under his vine, and under his figtree, and, on the account of religion, none shall make them afraid. Let us, my friends and fellow-citizens, stand fast, therefore, in the religious liberty wherewith God and Christ hath made us free.

II. With submission to the professional knowledge of my political fathers, I will now venture to make some observations on the nature and principles of civil liberty. These observations shall be included within the following particulars.

1. In this happy land of light and liberty, it is a truth fully established, that all men are by nature equally free. From this principle of natural liberty we derive an indefeasible right of being governed by our own civil constitutions. We the people are the source of all legislative authority. Upon this just, benevolent, pleasing, and even delightful principle, the constitutions, the laws, and the governments, of these federal states, will stand fast. All men who understand the nature, and feel the spirit, of such principles, are self-instructed to be their own legislators, either in one collected body, or by representation. When all the people can assemble, and personally contribute their aid in framing constitutions and laws for the government of themselves, then their liberty is most natural and most perfect. But since great loss of time, much expense, and many inconveniences, would attend this mode of legislation, the people have agreed, in free states, to select from the whole body, some of their brethren, whom Edition: current; Page: [1065] they invest with legislative power. What shall be transacted by these delegates or representatives, consistently with the constitution of the people, must be acknowledged as the act of the people. In conformity to this plan, the people keep as near the possession of natural liberty, as is convenient and really useful; and while they are truly virtuous, they will enjoy as much perfect liberty as is necessary to preserve peace, establish justice, and secure political happiness. I shall only add further, under this particular, that when a free people have, according to their constitution, determined to legislate by representatives, they should take great care that the representation may be fully adequate to the importance and welfare of the people; the elections should also be perfectly free, and sufficiently frequent.

2. The elections should be conducted agreeably to the principles of justice and honour. The privilege of electing freely, or being freely elected, is one of the fairest features in the pure image of natural liberty. A free and unbiassed election of the best and the wisest men, is a certain evidence of the flourishing state of liberty. On the other hand, when elections are under dishonest influence, and men can be sold and bought, it is a most lamentable sign that liberty is either in a deep sleep, or in a dangerous decay. When this birth-right of the people is bartered for something as mean as a mess of pottage—when they neglect and despise this natural and constitutional right—they then lose their share and influence in that government of which they were the original foundation. Having neglected that security which at first existed in themselves, and having counteracted the very design of that social compact which was intended to secure them from every species of political injury, they turn traitors to their God who made them free; and for want of exercising that natural power which their Creator gave them, their glory will depart: and, having the hearts of slaves, they will wear the livery and endure the misery of slaves. But I am not willing to spend time in representing this horrible image of slavish misery. This assembly is the image and representation of a free state. I have the honour, I have the felicity, of speaking before men who are too well acquainted with the blessings of liberty to neglect or despise any of the natural or constitutional rights of freemen.

3. The public happiness of a people is promoted, not only by the freedom of elections, but also by the wisdom and goodness of the laws. A wise and a good representation will produce good laws. Edition: current; Page: [1066] Good and wise men, who are clothed with the natural power of their constituents, will study to unite closely the interest of the country and the power of the laws; and where the representation is good, the laws will appear to carry with them the voice and common consent of the people. The laws made after this manner, are the laws of the people, and prove that they are free, and that they virtually legislate for themselves. I leave this particular, after observing, that the public happiness should be the first duty and the prime object of all legislators; and that, in every free and virtuous state, this is the pole-star of legislation.

4. It is the duty of the people, in conformity to the principles of liberty, to choose men to superintend the executive department of the nation: for no man, in a free state, can justly claim the authority of an executive magistrate, without the voice and consent of the people. In the exercise of their own natural power, by their constitution, they must appoint their chief magistrate to this place of honour and trust. In this respect, it may be said, that the people do not only make their laws, but they also execute them, and govern themselves. These considerations should have a tendency to discourage all officers of government from feeling themselves independent of their brethren, the people. With these proper views, they will be more likely to pay that attention to the wants and feelings of the people, which is necessary to increase the public happiness. When, therefore, the most exalted characters in authority feel themselves connected to the whole community by a brotherly, benevolent attachment; then the lives and the estates of the nation are most secure. In addition to this, it may also be said, that the administration of men in power will then be the most useful and honourable, when the affairs of government are conducted with moderation and justice: for the people have not appointed men to insult and injure them, but to promote their best interest. Violence & compulsion will never advance the happiness of freemen. They will know when they are governed agreeably to their constitutions and laws: they will know when they enjoy a portion of that civil prosperity which they are entitled to by their rights and privileges: and they will easily know when they are treated with civility and kindness. The people should have reason to believe, that men in office have nothing more at heart than the felicity of the nation.

5. The best measures should be adopted to establish esteem and Edition: current; Page: [1067] confidence between the people and their rulers; for without this favourable impression, there will be but little peace and satisfaction in the public mind. Great care should be taken not to disturb and irritate the temper of the people; their patience should never be tortured; but they should have as many reasons to be pleased with the transactions of government, as possible, consistent with the public welfare: for good humour and satisfaction greatly contribute to the peace and happiness of government and mankind. When the people have reasonable satisfaction and rest of mind, they will be more industrious, and consequently more virtuous: the produce of the land will be more plentiful; and the strength and resources of the nation will be in proportion to the pleasure and encouragement of the mind. A free, willing, industrious, and virtuous people, well united and well pleased, are the strength of a nation; while the great wealth of a few luxurious, idle drones, are the great bane of liberty. A people with that happy temper of mind which I have described, will be cheerfully obedient to their laws; they will respect and esteem all their good civil officers; and peace and harmony will be pleasant and lasting. The man, whom every benevolent, free and virtuous citizen respects and loves, suffer me to adorn my humble page with the name of Washington, hath declared, that the best way to preserve the confidence of the people durably is to promote their truest interest.

6. The principles of a free people are directly opposed to taxation without their own consent by representation. Money should never be extorted by violence, but received as the gifts and free will offerings, or contributions of the people, to pay for the security of their persons and property. Let them be convinced, that the public demands are reasonable and necessary, not merely for the benefit of civil officers, but for the general advantage of the nation; and then as a free, enlightened, generous, virtuous people, they will take pleasure cheerfully to defray the necessary expenses of government. They will be pleased when they recollect, that for a very small portion of their property they can be secured in the real possession of all the blessings of true liberty. But how will their pleasure rise still higher, when they consider, that by doing justice to their brethren, to whom they have committed the toils and dangers of public business; when they consider, I say, that by their contributions they advance not only the great prosperity of the nation, but include also their posterity in the Edition: current; Page: [1068] general happiness. But here let it be observed, that no requisitions should be made but such as are really and absolutely necessary for the support and contingencies of government; and of the expenditure of money the people should have an account. Much the greater part of mankind toil severely for what property they acquire: it would therefore be very unjust and cruel to use it for the gratification of pampered pride and luxury. In a word, that government which improves the interest and happiness of the people, and manages their public affairs consistently with the principles of a generous œconomy, as well as a just and magnanimous policy, free from a prodigal and dishonest waste of the public wealth; such a government will furnish the most reasonable satisfaction, and will be the most valued and the most bravely defended.

III. Under this head of discourse, I will endeavour to shew when it may be said that a people stand fast in the liberty wherewith they are free. With the prosecution of this design, I will attempt to intermix the spirit and freedom of an application.

1. The people are in the habit and exercise of liberty, when they resort to the first principles of government, and trace their rights up to God the Creator: when they exercise their natural power of framing any social compact conducive to the common interest: feel independent of all human power but that which flows from themselves: disdain the subjection of their consciences to any authority but the will of God: refuse to be controuled by the will of any man who claims an independent power of disposing of their lives and estates: recollect that they entered into society to have their natural rights, which are the basis of civil rights, secured. To maintain such principles of original justice, is to stand fast in the righteous liberty of man. True liberty suffers no man to be injured in his person, estate, or character: it encourages and enables him to improve his happiness; and, within the limits of the public good, insures to him every blessing to which imperfect human nature can attain. All the toils, sufferings, treasure and blood of men, are not lost, when they are the price and purchase of liberty. Without religious and civil liberty, we can have no security of life, or of any of the good things of God: we cannot practice the sentiments of our consciences: but where the rights of man are equally secured in the greatest degree, there is the greatest happiness—and that is our country.

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2. When you carefully regard the election of your representatives and officers of government, you will stand fast in your liberty. It is a darling privilege of all freemen to elect the best qualified men to represent them in a state or national assembly. But do a people stand fast in the discharge of their duty—are they in the exercise of their civil rights, when they neglect to choose men of established principles of virtue and liberty? Do they wish to have good laws, and yet neglect to choose men who have proved themselves friends to the rights of their brethren? Can they reasonably expect that good laws will proceed from men who fear not God nor regard man? Will men, who feel no obligations of love and duty to their Creator, be good examples to their constituents? Will they add any weight to the laws they assisted to make, when they are so prompt to violate them? Do they not, as far as their influence will reach, defeat the very laws they voted for? Will a public and patriotic spirit originate from vicious principles? Is it natural for noble and generous sentiments to flow from vice? Do not bad principles make men selfish, narrow the mind, and banish all benevolent propensities of doing good to men? Will not the very knowledge which unprincipled men may have, degenerate into selfish low cunning, and serve only to embarrass and perplex the honesty and good common sense of men who are able and willing to promote the interest of society? I need not tell you, that men under the influence of selfish passions, will sacrifice the best interest of their country, whenever they can greatly advance their own importance; and, like a Dean and an Arnold, by the most infamous and horrible treason, betray that liberty which they once pretended to defend. Do any of the people ask me, as one of their brethren, who are the men we must choose, in order to stand fast in our liberty? First, separate, in your minds, the most wicked and unprincipled men, from being objects of your choice; and then, out of the rest, select men of understanding, for of such there will enough remain, who are actuated by principles of love and obedience to God, and animated by a generous benevolence to mankind; who really love to see their brethren free and happy: for in this every benevolent man must take pleasure. Benevolent principles will produce the noblest acts of public and patriotic good; they will enable men to discern easily the advantage of the people. “For when private interest and private views are removed, it will be easy to know what is the public good.” Let me beseech all the Edition: current; Page: [1070] people to remember, that their safety and happiness in society depends upon the election of good and wise representatives. Under the smiles of providence, the prosperity of a free people is in their own hands; for they have knowledge enough, if well improved, to advance and secure their welfare. In a few words, choose the men to manage your public affairs, to whom you would not fear to entrust the most important concerns of a private nature. This is the way to stand fast in your liberty.

3. The example of civil officers has great influence on the minds of mankind. They ought to be punctual in their observation of the laws of the country. As public men, or private citizens, they should be uniform in the practice of virtue, and the defence of liberty. The people call them fathers: we are willing to be their political children, as long as they are good parents. But, should not fathers be examples of goodness to their children? Will children do well, if the parents are wicked and do wrong? Will the children be obedient to the public laws, if the parents violate them? Will the children love freedom, if the parents disregard it? Will the children cultivate a public spirit, if the parents are selfish? Do fathers love their children, and not strive in all respects to promote their felicity? It is most reasonable, therefore, to conclude, that it is the great and indispensible duty of rulers to encourage the practice of religion by their own influence and example: and I venture to declare, that no civil officer does the half of his duty, unless he endeavours to suppress vice and disorder, and so prevent the necessity of punishment. Mankind very quickly and justly exclaim against the absurdity of allowing those men to be teachers of religion, who live in the habitual practice of vice and wickedness: Shall we not, with equal justice, condemn the practice of those men who break through those restraints which were intended to suppress vice, and consequently encourage virtue? Should they not be ministers of God for good to the people, in every possible way? Every man of common sense acknowledges, that religion is very useful to mankind; and especially the precepts and truths of the gospel. It is also allowed, that public worship is of particular and national advantage. To favour and practice virtue is therefore to increase the public happiness, and to answer the intention of government: and by these means their own importance and authority will be increased.

4. When the people are submissive to their laws and rulers, upon Edition: current; Page: [1071] the principles already mentioned, their liberties will be permanent. Where the true spirit of religion is united to the free and generous spirit of liberty, obedience will be a pleasing duty. The author of our benevolent religion hath commanded us to render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God, the things that are God’s. The apostles also say, Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. Render to all, their dues: tribute, to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honour, to whom honour. Men who are under the influence of reason and religion, will not blame the necessary measures of government. They will not be factious and turbulent, but of a reasonable and complying disposition. They will be influenced by such generous sentiments as the following: Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. We must endeavour to render ourselves extensively useful, and promote the good of our country; in which, not only our own happiness, but the happiness of millions, is included.

5. The liberties of a people cannot be lasting without knowledge. The human mind is capable of great cultivation. Knowledge is not only useful, but it adds dignity to man. When the minds of men are improved, they can better understand their rights—they can know what part they are to act, in contributing to the welfare of the nation. Freemen should always acquire knowledge; this is a privilege and pleasure unknown to slaves; this elevates the mind of man; this creates a conscious dignity of his importance as a rational creature, and a free agent. The happiness of mankind has been much advanced by the arts and sciences; and they have flourished the most among freemen. Slavery blots the image of the Creator, which was at first impressed upon man: it banishes knowledge, and courts misery. But men, enlightened, pursue with ardour the knowledge and recovery of their rights. Liberty is enlightened by knowledge; and knowledge is nurtured by liberty. Where there is wisdom, virtue, and liberty, there mankind are men. In all the dark ages of the world, tyranny has been established upon the slavish ignorance of mankind. Tyrants, in time past, secured their domination by darkening the minds of their subjects. In the present day, they tremble at the approaching light of knowledge and liberty. They turn indignant from the glorious illuminations of America and France. They hear with horrour the sound of freedom and the rights of men. They would still imbrute the human Edition: current; Page: [1072] race, and make mankind forget that they are men. Be assured, my dear countrymen, knowledge is absolutely necessary to secure the blessings of freedom. If you wish to see your country not only free in your day, but also to feast your imaginations with the pleasing prospect of a free posterity for many ages to come; let me entreat you, to encourage and promote that knowledge which will enable the people successfully to watch all the enemies of liberty, and guard against the designs of intriguing men. Unless the people have knowledge, they may be imposed upon by men who are always lying in wait to disturb the peace of society, create disorder and confusion, and, in the tumult, overturn the liberties of the country. Be always awake to your own interest, and you will have nothing to fear: but if you sleep, the enemies of liberty will awake: sleep, and by your death-like slumbers you will give them life: for liberty has never yet appeared upon the face of the earth without meeting enemies to contend with. There have been men in America, who have reprobated what they were pleased to call the inquisitive sauciness of the people, when they wished to know how the public affairs of the country were conducted, and how justice and liberty might be secured. Nay, some men, still more unjust and tyrannical, have ventured to say—blush! ye degenerate sons of free parents! that the people, when in the possession of liberty, are unable to use it for their own advantage, and therefore they ought to be governed against their wills, and without their choice, by men, to be sure, much wiser than themselves, and more disposed to do them good. This is as much as to say, that the people ought to be robbed of their natural rights for their own advantage and happiness. But whoever is acquainted with the history of despotic power, need not be informed, that a free people will always use their freedom more consistently with the principles of justice and reason, than any men with uncontrouled power. It is a truth, and it is now too late to deny it, that no man, or body of men, are fit to be entrusted with unlimitted power. This power they would most certainly abuse, whenever their unjust wills were in the least opposed. Let the youth be well educated in wisdom and virtue; let them be instructed in the true principles of freedom, and they will improve their liberty most agreeably to the rational happiness of mankind. In this free country, knowledge is peculiarly necessary, where no other qualifications are requisite, for the most important offices of government, but Edition: current; Page: [1073] virtue and ability. I again say, let the children and youth be well educated. In the earliest stages of life, let a free and public spirit be infused into the youthful mind. This is the way to exclude from their young breasts all oppressing and cruel passions. Unless the doors of education are open to all the youth of the country equally, advantages may be taken by some men of cunning, to tyrannize over the rest, and become masters of their property. Every parent, and every friend to the freedom of his country, ought to be solicitous for the improvement of our youth in the principles of freedom and good government, and then the people will stand fast in their liberty for a long time; yes, as long as such principles are in their true exercise; and, with submission to the divine will, as long as they please. But what! Shall I doubt the attention and exertions of my fellow-citizens to this all-important cause of public prosperity? Shall the children and youth of a free people be suffered to grow up ignorant of the value of those liberties you intend to commit to their trust? Shall they be unfit to take care of those political blessings which have been secured for them at the great expense of much toil, treasure, and precious blood? Oh! Liberty, thou friend to mankind, forbid it; justice, thou guardian of the rights of men, forbid it; ye patriots and fathers of your country, forbid it: but rather let me say, Oh! thou blessed God, who takest no pleasure in the misery of thy children, forbid it, for the sake of him who hath made us free.

6. The principles and practice of our peaceable and benevolent religion, are the foundation on which all the blessings of life and liberty must stand fast. Righteousness exalteth a nation. True religion will incline a people to love and honour the Most High who ruleth among the children of men. The Lord hath said, Them that honour me, I will honour. Religion is intended to unite men together in the bonds of brotherly love and good will; to prevent bad habits; to suppress disorder; to calm factious spirits; and to put an end to the shedding of brothers’ blood. The influence and importance of religion should be felt by men both in their family and national connections. Without it, they can neither be happy in this world nor in a future state. May the benevolent efforts of all public teachers of true religion, be united with the affectionate influence of parents, to promote the personal and national welfare of our country. By instilling good sentiments into the tender minds of children and youth, you will teach them to Edition: current; Page: [1074] stand fast in their liberty. Good impressions, made in early life, are very frequently of lasting benefit both to individuals and the public. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. But, in addition to all your pious exertions, let me entreat you, never to forget to beseech the Father of mercies and the God of all grace, to implant in the hearts of our youth, by the divine Spirit, the true principles of holiness.

I hope it has been evident, that, in the whole body of this discourse, I have endeavoured to interweave sentiments of religion and virtue. I cannot, therefore, suppose it necessary at present, to prosecute this particular article any farther. Permit me, however, to assure you, that I have not ventured nor wished to recommend liberty without virtue; for this would have been a recommendation of licentiousness. True liberty may be summed up in this declaration: that we have a right to do all the good we can; but have no right to injure our fellow-men: we have a right to be as happy as we can; but no right to lessen the happiness of mankind.

Thus far I have attempted to comply with the appointment of the civil fathers of this state. In this compliance, my diffidence and fear have given me no small anxiety, lest I should not answer the design of their appointment. I have not, therefore, been influenced by a presuming expectation of communicating to this honourable political body, any new information. I feel, nevertheless, in my mind, a pleasing persuasion, that my fathers in government will not be displeased with any sincere and humble attempt to inspire their younger sons with a just sense of the blessings and privileges they enjoy under the present legislative and executive authority. In a few years, some of the youth of the present day must be called to fill the places of the fathers now in office. The thought is serious! Who knows the consequence? Is it not then of the utmost importance that the minds of young men should be impressed with the best sentiments of equal liberty? Shall we not exhort them to stand fast in their liberty, that their country may be free? Shall we not animate the rising generation, to transmit to their posterity that invaluable inheritance of freedom, which they must soon receive from the present race of patriots when they shall rest from their labours? This is a day of joy: it reminds you of one of the great privileges of freemen: it should be a day of gratitude also. Oh! that you did but feel and realize your happy Edition: current; Page: [1075] situation, that you might send up to heaven the warmest gratitude of hearts glowing with love and praise to that blessed Saviour who hath made us free!

Fathers, brethren, and fellow-citizens, with the happy feelings of a brother freeman, I congratulate you on the enjoyment of that liberty which I have been describing: it involves in it every thing most conducive to your peace and prosperity on earth: clasp it to your bosoms, and religiously swear, that you will live freemen, or die bravely. I rejoice, that it is in your power, under God, to stand fast in your liberty. Shall I contrast your present situation with the deplorable state of man in ages past? Would not this draw a cloud of grief over the bright sunshine of your happy feelings? We rejoice, that the earth hath been delivered from the hands of those inhuman butchers, whose unrelenting murders have filled so many bloody pages of history; who slaughtered millions of the human race, for no other purpose but to extend their cruel and ambitious power, and oppress and lay waste the world. Tyrants, who, instead of being transmitted down to us with illustrious names, for being the most successful destroyers of their fellow-creatures, should be named after the most furious beasts of prey; and, on account of the mischief they have done to mankind, be classed with tempests, earthquakes, and plagues. We rejoice, with thankful hearts, that we are not under the power of such plagues of the human race, who wage war with the peace and happiness of mankind; who think it is an act of heroism to depopulate whole countries to gratify private revenge. We now see that the patriotic resolutions of our countrymen have not been in vain: we now see that the treasures expended in the defence of liberty, have realized a national interest of more value than ten thousand per cent: we now see that the inexpressible trials and sufferings of a patriot army, have been productive of the richest fruits; and that the blood of our heroes has been the seed of liberty. But, we commiserate the deplorable condition of many of our fellow-men, who now groan under the heavy chains of despotism: we wish the rights of men may be soon restored to them.

But I return from this digression. I find political happiness not abroad, but at home. Happy age and country in which we live! We remember no æra since the creation of the world, so favourable to the rights of mankind as the present. The histories of mankind, with only Edition: current; Page: [1076] a few exceptions, are the records of human guilt, oppression, and misery. Although some shadow of rude liberty was contended for by a few small uncivilized tribes of men, yet they were subjected by those nations who were more powerful. At the beginning of the Christian æra, almost two thirds of mankind were in the most abject and cruel slavery. The Grecian and Roman nations, notwithstanding their boasted love of liberty, were not acquainted with the true principles of original, equal, and sentimental liberty. Though an imperfect civilization had made some progress among them, yet they neither understood the nature, nor practised the duties, of humanity. They who are acquainted with the true history of Greece and Rome, need not be informed, that the cruelty they exercised upon their slaves, and those taken in war, is almost beyond the power of credibility. The proud and selfish passions have always endeavoured to suppress the spirit of freedom. Even Rome herself, while she pretended to glory in being free, endeavoured to subject and enslave the rest of mankind. But no longer shall we look to antient histories for principles and systems of pure freedom. The close of the eighteenth century, in which we live, shall teach mankind to be truly free. The freedom of America and France, shall make this age memorable. From this time forth, men shall be taught, that true greatness consists not in destroying, but in saving, the lives of men; not in conquering, but making them free; not in making war, but making peace; not in making men ignorant, but making them wise; not in firing them with brutal rage, but in making them humane; not in being ambitious, but in being good, just, and virtuous. Of France, it may be said, in the language of scripture, Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or, Shall a nation be born at once? Behold a nation of freemen, rising out of a nation of slaves! This gratifies the feelings of humanity and benevolence. We wish to see all men independent of all things but the laws of God, and the just laws of their country. And will any man blame me for saying, that, in America, every friend to justice and the rights of men wishes prosperity to that generous nation, who are allied to these United States, and who so powerfully aided them in securing their independence and peace. In the name of the Lord of hosts, let us pray, that no weapon that is formed against their freedom, shall prosper.

I once more invite you to join me in gratitude to that best of Beings, Edition: current; Page: [1077] by whose providential goodness and power the lines are fallen unto us in pleasant places; yea, we have a goodly heritage. Here harvests grow for the free and cheerful husbandman: here, neither awed by lordly and rapacious injustice, nor dejected by beholding idleness high fed and fattened on the labours of other men, they reap and enjoy the pleasing fruits of their honest industry. Ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land of safety. Here the people dwell together as brethren; peace, harmony, industry, and health, unite their various gifts to make this life a blessing: here poor human nature, in other parts of the world long depressed by ignorance and enslaving power, seems to reclaim the primitive blessings of creation, and to rejoice that it was made in the image of God: here conscience assumes her first authority; religion is no longer enslaved to the wills and laws of men; public and private happiness are guarded by the laws and government of the people. Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Let us determine to be free from the unjust power of men, and free from the slavery and tyranny of sin, and we shall then be truly free. If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

With the words of a celebrated French writer, this discourse will be concluded.

Ye people of Northamerica, let the example of all nations who have gone before you, and above all that of Greatbritain, serve you for instruction. Fear the affluence of gold, which brings with luxury the corruption of manners, the contempt of laws. Fear a too unequal distribution of riches, which exhibits a small number of citizens in opulence, and a great multitude of citizens in extreme poverty; whence springs the insolence of the former, and the debasement of the latter. Secure yourselves against the spirit of conquest. The tranquillity of an empire diminishes in proportion to its extension. Have arms for your defence; have none for offence. Seek competency and health in labour; prosperity in the culture of lands, and the workshops of industry; power in manners and virtue. Cause arts and sciences, which distinguish the civilized from a savage man, to flourish and abound. Above all, watch carefully over the education of your children. It is from public schools, be assured, that come the wise magistrates, the capable and courageous soldiers, the good fathers, the good husbands, the good brothers, the good friends, the good men. Wherever the youth are seen depraved, the nation is on the decline. Let liberty have an immoveable foundation in the wisdom of your laws, and let it be the indestructible Edition: current; Page: [1078] cement to bind your states together. Establish no legal preference amongst the different forms of worship. Superstition is innocent, wherever it is neither persecuted nor protected; and may your duration, if it be possible, equal the duration of the world!

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John Leland (1754–1841). A key figure in the rise of religious liberty in America, the Baptist minister John Leland had two careers, one in Massachusetts, the other in Virginia. His only formal education was in the elementary schools of Grafton, Massachusetts, his birthplace, yet he became well educated and widely read. Having experienced a “sign from God,” he became a minister and went to preach in Orange County, Virginia, in 1776. During his fourteen years in Virginia, he led the fight to disestablish the Episcopal Church, to secure religious freedom, and to ratify the Constitution. He became a friend, constituent, and important ally of James Madison and made indispensable contributions to Madison’s election to the first United States Congress in 1789. Madison, particularly in fulfillment of a campaign promise to Leland, George Eve, and other Baptists (and with George Washington’s support) insisted upon adoption of the Bill of Rights as amendments to the Constitution. Leland’s views and importance are comparable to those of Isaac Backus.

In 1791 Leland returned to Massachusetts, where he spent most of his last fifty years. There and in Connecticut he proposed that the state constitutions be changed as he fought for disestablishment of the Congregationalist Standing Order and for religious liberty for Baptists and others deprived of constitutional protection. Religious liberty was secured in Connecticut in 1820, and Leland finally saw the Congregational system in Massachusetts overthrown in 1833. Leland was a liberal in politics, as well as in religion; he supported the Jeffersonian Republicans—and, later, the Jacksonian Democrats—and strongly opposed slavery and the slave trade. In 1811 he was elected on the Republican ticket to the Massachusetts legislature, his second public office, for he had served as an Orange County delegate to the Virginia convention that ratified the federal Constitution in 1788.

Leland’s nineteenth-century biographer L. F. Greene appraised him this way: “Through a long life, Elder Leland sustained, with uniform consistency, the two-fold character of the patriot and the Christian. For his religious creed he acknowledged no directory but the Bible. He loved the pure, unadulterated word of truth. . . . His political creed was based upon the ‘sufficient truths’ of equality, and of inherent and inalienable rights, recognised by the master spirits of the revolution . . .” (Writings of Elder John Leland [1845] pp. 50–51). Leland’s 1831 autobiographical sketch hardly mentions politics, for his mission Edition: current; Page: [1081] Edition: current; Page: [1082] was evangelism, and he calculated the thousands of miles he had traveled, tabulated his 1,515 baptisms, and wrote as his epitaph: “Here lies the body of John Leland, who labored ——— to promote piety, and vindicate the civil and religious rights of all men.” (We can fill the blank with “67 years.”) In 1834 he wrote: “The plea for religious liberty has been long and powerful; but it has been left for the United States to acknowledge it a right inherent, and not a favor granted: to exclude religious opinions from the list of objects of legislation” (ibid., pp. 38–39).

Leland was “as courageous and resourceful a champion of the rights of conscience as America has produced,” according to Lyman H. Butterfield. “In his very individualism Leland was a representative American of his time. Self-reliant to the point of eccentricity and a tireless fighter for principle, he was without arrogance, and the reminiscences of those who knew him speak most often of his humor, his gentleness, and his humility. . . . John Leland therefore has a place in our history as well as in our folklore” (“Elder John Leland, Jeffersonian Itinerant,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, Oct. 15, 1952).

This 1791 sermon was probably written shortly after Leland returned to New England from Virginia; it was reprinted several times. Its original full title was The Rights of Conscience inalienable; and therefore Religious Opinions not cognizable by Law: Or, The high-flying Churchman, stript of his legal Robe, appears a Yaho[o].

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There are four principles contended for, as the foundation of civil government, viz. birth, property, grace, and compact. The first of these is practised upon in all hereditary monarchies, where it is believed that the son of a monarch is entitled to dominion upon the decease of his father, whether he be a wise man or a fool. The second principle is built upon in all aristocratical governments, where the rich landholders have the sole rule of all their tenants, and make laws at pleasure which are binding upon all. The third principle is adopted by those kingdoms and states that require a religious test to qualify an officer of state, proscribing all non-conformists from civil and religious liberty. This was the error of Constantine’s government, who first established the christian religion by law, and then proscribed the pagans and banished the Arian heretics. This error also filled the heads of the anabaptists in Germany (who were re-sprinklers): they supposed that none had a right to rule but gracious men. The same error prevails in the see of Rome, where his holiness exalts himself above all who are called gods (i.e. kings and rulers), and where no protestant heretic is allowed the liberty of a citizen. This principle is also plead for in the Ottoman empire, where it is death to call in question the divinity of Mahomet or the authenticity of the Alcoran.

The same evil has twisted itself into the British form of government; where, in the state-establishment of the church of England, no man is eligible to any office, civil or military, without he subscribes to the 39 articles and book of common-prayer; and even then, upon receiving a commission for the army the law obliges him to receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper; and no non-conformist is allowed the liberty of his conscience without he subscribes to all the 39 articles but about 4. And when that is done his purse-strings are drawn by others to pay preachers in whom he has no confidence and whom he never hears.

This was the case with several of the southern states (until the revolution) in which the church of England was established.

The fourth principle (compact) is adopted in the American states as the basis of civil government. This foundation appears to be a just one by the following investigation.

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Suppose a man to remove to a desolate island and take a peaceable possession of it without injuring any, so that he should be the honest inheritor of the isle. So long as he is alone he is the absolute monarch of the place, and his own will is his law, which law is as often altered or repealed as his will changes. In process of time from this man’s loins ten sons are grown to manhood and possess property. So long as they are all good men each one can be as absolute, free, and sovereign as his father; but one of the ten turns vagrant, by robbing the rest; this villain is equal to if not an overmatch for any one of the nine—not one of them durst engage him in single combat: reason and safety both dictate to the nine the necessity of a confederation to unite their strength together to repel or destroy the plundering knave. Upon entering into confederation some compact or agreement would be stipulated by which each would be bound to do his equal part in fatigue and expence; it would be neccessary for these nine to meet at stated times to consult means of safety and happiness; a shady tree or small cabin would answer their purpose; and in case of disagreement four must give up to five.

In this state of things their government would be perfectly democratical, every citizen being a legislator.

In a course of years, from these nine there arises nine thousand; their government can be no longer democratical, prudence would forbid it. Each tribe or district must chuse their representative, who (for the term that he is chosen) has the whole political power of his constituents. These representatives, meeting in assembly, would have power to make laws binding on their constituents; and while their time was spent in making laws for the community each one of the community must advance a little of his money as a compensation therefor. Should these representatives differ in judgment the minor must submit to the major, as in the case above.

From this simple parable the following things are demonstrated:

1. That the law was not made for a righteous man, but for the disobedient. 2. That righteous men have to part with a little of their liberty and property to preserve the rest. 3. That all power is vested in and consequently derived from the people. 4. That the law should rule over rulers, and not rulers over the law. 5. That government is founded on compact. 6. That every law made by the legislators inconsistent with the compact, modernly called a constitution, is Edition: current; Page: [1085] usurpive in the legislators and not binding on the people. 7. That whenever government is found inadequate to preserve the liberty and property of the people they have an indubitable right to alter it so as to answer those purposes. 8. That legislators in their legislative capacity cannot alter the constitution, for they are hired servants of the people to act within the limits of the constitution.

From these general observations I shall pass on to examine a question, which has been the strife and contention of ages. The question is, “Are the rights of conscience alienable, or inalienable?

The word conscience signifies common science, a court of judicature which the Almighty has erected in every human breast; a censor morum over all his actions. Conscience will ever judge right when it is rightly informed, and speak the truth when it understands it. But to advert to the question—“Does a man upon entering into social compact surrender his conscience to that society to be controled by the laws thereof, or can he in justice assist in making laws to bind his children’s consciences before they are born?” I judge not, for the following reasons:

1. Every man must give an account of himself to God, and therefore every man ought to be at liberty to serve God in that way that he can best reconcile it to his conscience. If government can answer for individuals at the day of judgment, let men be controled by it in religious matters; otherwise let men be free.

2. It would be sinful for a man to surrender that to man which is to be kept sacred for God. A man’s mind should be always open to conviction, and an honest man will receive that doctrine which appears the best demonstrated; and what is more common than for the best of men to change their minds? Such are the prejudices of the mind, and such the force of tradition, that a man who never alters his mind is either very weak or very stubborn. How painful then must it be to an honest heart to be bound to observe the principles of his former belief after he is convinced of their imbecility? and this ever has and ever will be the case while the rights of conscience are considered alienable.

3. But supposing it was right for a man to bind his own conscience, yet surely it is very iniquitous to bind the consciences of his children; to make fetters for them before they are born is very cruel. And yet such has been the conduct of men in almost all ages that Edition: current; Page: [1086] their children have been bound to believe and worship as their fathers did, or suffer shame, loss, and sometimes life; and at best to be called dissenters, because they dissent from that which they never joined voluntarily. Such conduct in parents is worse than that of the father of Hannibal, who imposed an oath upon his son while a child never to be at peace with the Romans.

4. Finally, religion is a matter between God and individuals, religious opinions of men not being the objects of civil government nor any ways under its control.

It has often been observed by the friends of religious establishment by human laws, that no state can long continue without it; that religion will perish, and nothing but infidelity and atheism prevail.

Are these things facts? Did not the christian religion prevail during the three first centuries, in a more glorious manner than ever it has since, not only without the aid of law, but in opposition to all the laws of haughty monarchs? And did not religion receive a deadly wound by being fostered in the arms of civil power and regulated by law? These things are so.

From that day to this we have but a few instances of religious liberty to judge by; for in almost all states civil rulers (by the instigation of covetous priests) have undertaken to steady the ark of religion by human laws; but yet we have a few of them without leaving our own land.

The state of Rhode-Island has stood above 160 years without any religious establishment. The state of New-York never had any. New-Jersey claims the same. Pennsylvania has also stood from its first settlement until now upon a liberal foundation; and if agriculture, the mechanical arts and commerce, have not flourished in these states equal to any of the states I judge wrong.

It may further be observed, that all the states now in union, saving two or three in New-England, have no legal force used about religion, in directing its course or supporting its preachers. And moreover the federal government is forbidden by the constitution to make any laws establishing any kind of religion. If religion cannot stand, therefore, without the aid of law, it is likely to fall soon in our nation, except in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

To say that “religion cannot stand without a state establishment” is not only contrary to fact (as has been proved already) but is a contradiction Edition: current; Page: [1087] in phrase. Religion must have stood a time before any law could have been made about it; and if it did stand almost three hundred years without law it can still stand without it.

The evils of such an establishment are many.

1. Uninspired fallible men make their own opinions tests of orthodoxy, and use their own systems, as Procrustes used his iron bedstead, to stretch and measure the consciences of all others by. Where no toleration is granted to non-conformists either ignorance and superstition prevail or persecution rages; and if toleration is granted to restricted non-conformists the minds of men are biassed to embrace that religion which is favored and pampered by law (and thereby hypocrisy is nourished) while those who cannot stretch their consciences to believe any thing and every thing in the established creed are treated with contempt and opprobrious names; and by such means some are pampered to death by largesses and others confined from doing what good they otherwise could by penury. The first lie under a temptation to flatter the ruling party, to continue that form of government which brings the sure bread of idleness; the last to despise that government and those rulers that oppress them. The first have their eyes shut to all further light that would alter the religious machine; the last are always seeking new light, and often fall into enthusiasm. Such are the natural evils of establishment in religion by human laws.

2. Such establishments not only wean and alienate the affections of one from another on account of the different usages they receive in their religious sentiments, but are also very impolitic, especially in new countries; for what encouragement can strangers have to migrate with their arts and wealth into a state where they cannot enjoy their religious sentiments without exposing themselves to the law? when at the same time their religious opinions do not lead them to be mutinous. And further, how often have kingdoms and states been greatly weakened by religious tests! In the time of the persecution in France not less than twenty thousand people fled for the enjoyment of religious liberty.

3. These establishments metamorphose the church into a creature, and religion into a principle of state; which has a natural tendency to make men conclude that bible religion is nothing but a trick of state. Hence it is that the greatest part of the well informed in literature are Edition: current; Page: [1088] overrun with deism and infidelity: nor is it likely it will ever be any better while preaching is made a trade of emolument. And if there is no difference between bible religion and state religion I shall soon fall into infidelity.

4. There are no two kingdoms or states that establish the same creed or formularies of faith (which alone proves their debility). In one kingdom a man is condemned for not believing a doctrine that he would be condemned for believing in another kingdom. Both of these establishments cannot be right—but both of them can be, and surely are, wrong.

5. The nature of such establishments, further, is to keep from civil office the best of men. Good men cannot believe what they cannot believe; and they will not subscribe to what they disbelieve, and take an oath to maintain what they conclude is error: and as the best of men differ in judgment there may be some of them in any state: their talents and virtue entitle them to fill the most important posts, yet because they differ from the established creed of the state they cannot—will not fill those posts. Whereas villains make no scruple to take any oath.

If these and many more evils attend such establishments—what were and still are the causes that ever there should be a state establishment of religion?

The causes are many—some of them follow.

1. The love of importance is a general evil. It is natural to men to dictate for others; they choose to command the bushel and use the whip-row, to have the halter around the necks of others to hang them at pleasure.

2. An over-fondness for a particular system or sect. This gave rise to the first human establishment of religion, by Constantine the Great. Being converted to the christian system, he established it in the Roman empire, compelled the pagans to submit, and banished the christian heretics, built fine chapels at public expence, and forced large stipends for the preachers. All this was done out of love to the christian religion: but his love operated inadvertently; for he did the christian church more harm than all the persecuting emperors did. It is said that in his day a voice was heard from heaven, saying, “Now is the poison spued into the churches.” If this voice was not heard, it nevertheless was a truth; for from that day to this the christian religion Edition: current; Page: [1089] has been made a stirrup to mount the steed of popularity, wealth, and ambition.

3. To produce uniformity in religion. Rulers often fear that if they leave every man to think, speak and worship as he pleases, that the whole cause will be wrecked in diversity; to prevent which they establish some standard of orthodoxy to effect uniformity. But is uniformity attainable? Millions of men, women and children, have been tortured to death to produce uniformity, and yet the world has not advanced one inch towards it. And as long as men live in different parts of the world, have different habits, education and interests, they will be different in judgment, humanly speaking.

Is conformity of sentiments in matters of religion essential to the happiness of civil government? Not at all. Government has no more to do with the religious opinions of men than it has with the principles of the mathematics. Let every man speak freely without fear—maintain the principles that he believes—worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing, i.e. see that he meets with no personal abuse or loss of property for his religious opinions. Instead of discouraging of him with proscriptions, fines, confiscation or death; let him be encouraged, as a free man, to bring forth his arguments and maintain his points with all boldness; then if his doctrine is false it will be confuted, and if it is true (though ever so novel) let others credit it. When every man has this liberty what can he wish for more? A liberal man asks for nothing more of government.

The duty of magistrates is not to judge of the divinity or tendency of doctrines, but when those principles break out into overt acts of violence then to use the civil sword and punish the vagrant for what he has done and not for the religious phrenzy that he acted from.

It is not supposable that any established creed contains the whole truth and nothing but truth; but supposing it did, which established church has got it? All bigots contend for it—each society cries out “The temple of the Lord are we.” Let one society be supposed to be in possession of the whole—let that society be established by law—the creed of faith that they adopt be so consecrated by government that the man that disbelieves it must die—let this creed finally prevail over the whole world. I ask what honor truth gets by all this? None at all. It is famed of a Prussian, called John the Cicero, that by one oration Edition: current; Page: [1090] he reconciled two contending princes actually in war; but, says the historian, “it was his six thousand horse of battle that had the most persuasive oratory.” So when one creed or church prevails over another, being armed with (a coat of mail) law and sword, truth gets no honor by the victory. Whereas if all stand upon one footing, being equally protected by law as citizens (not as saints) and one prevails over another by cool investigation and fair argument, then truth gains honor, and men more firmly believe it than if it was made an essential article of salvation by law.

Truth disdains the aid of law for its defence—it will stand upon its own merits. The heathens worshipped a goddess called truth, stark naked; and all human decorations of truth serve only to destroy her virgin beauty. It is error, and error alone, that needs human support; and whenever men fly to the law or sword to protect their system of religion and force it upon others, it is evident that they have something in their system that will not bear the light and stand upon the basis of truth.

4. The common objection “that the ignorant part of the community are not capacitated to judge for themselves” supports the popish hierarchy, and all protestant as well as Turkish and pagan establishments, in idea.

But is this idea just? Has God chosen many of the wise and learned? Has he not hidden the mystery of gospel truth from them and revealed it unto babes? Does the world by wisdom know God? Did many of the rulers believe in Christ when he was upon earth? Were not the learned clergy (the scribes) his most inveterate enemies? Do not great men differ as much as little men in judgment? Have not almost all lawless errors crept into the world through the means of wise men (so called)? Is not a simple man, who makes nature and reason his study, a competent judge of things? Is the bible written (like Caligula’s laws) so intricate and high that none but the letter-learned (according to common phrase) can read it? Is not the vision written so plain that he that runs may read it? Do not those who understand the original languages which the bible was written in differ as much in judgment as others? Are the identical copies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, together with the epistles, in every university, and in the hands of every master of arts? If not, have not Edition: current; Page: [1091] the learned to trust to a human transcription, as much as the unlearned have to a translation? If these questions and others of a like nature can be confuted, then I will confess that it is wisdom for a conclave of bishops or a convocation of clergy to frame a system out of the bible and persuade the legislature to legalise it. No. It would be attended with so much expence, pride, domination, cruelty and bloodshed, that let me rather fall into infidelity; for no religion at all is better than that which is worse than none.

5. The ground work of these establishments of religion is clerical influence. Rulers, being persuaded by the clergy that an establishment of religion by human laws would promote the knowledge of the gospel, quell religious disputes, prevent heresy, produce uniformity, and finally be advantageous to the state, establish such creeds as are framed by the clergy; and this they often do the more readily when they are flattered by the clergy that if they thus defend the truth they will become nursing fathers to the church and merit something considerable for themselves.

What stimulates the clergy to recommend this mode of reasoning is,

1. Ignorance—not being able to confute error by fair argument.

2. Indolence—not being willing to spend any time to confute the heretical.

3. But chiefly covetousness, to get money—for it may be observed that in all these establishments settled salaries for the clergy recoverable by law are sure to be interwoven; and was not this the case, I am well convinced that there would not be many if any religious establishments in the christian world.

Having made the foregoing remarks, I shall next make some observations on the religion of Connecticut.

If the citizens of this state have any thing in existence that looks like a religious establishment, they ought to be very cautious; for being but a small part of the world they can never expect to extend their religion over the whole of it, without it is so well founded that it cannot be confuted.

If one third part of the face of the globe is allowed to be seas, the earthy parts would compose 4550 such states as Connecticut. The American empire would afford above 200 of them. And as there is no Edition: current; Page: [1092] religion in this empire of the same stamp of the Connecticut standing order, upon the Saybrook platform, they may expect 199 against 1 at home, and 4549 against 1 abroad.

Connecticut and New-Haven were separate governments till the reign of Charles II when they were incorporated together by a charter, which charter is still considered by some as the basis of government.

At present (1791) there are in the state about 168 presbyterial, congregational and consociated preachers, 35 baptists, 20 episcopalians, 10 separate congregationals, and a few of other denominations. The first are the standing order of Connecticut, to whom all others have to pay obeisance. Societies of the standing order are established by law; none have right to vote therein but men of age who possess property to the amount of 40l, or are in full communion in the church. Their choice of ministers is by major vote; and what the society agree to give him annually is levied upon all within the limits of the society-bounds, except they bring a certificate to the clerk of the society that they attend worship elsewhere and contribute to the satisfaction of the society where they attend. The money being levied on the people is distrainable by law, and perpetually binding on the society till the minister is dismissed by a council or by death from his charge.

It is not my intention to give a detail of all the tumults, oppression, fines and imprisonments, that have heretofore been occasioned by this law-religion. These things are partly dead and buried, and if they do not rise of themselves let them sleep peaceably in the dust forever. Let it suffice on this head to say, that it is not possible in the nature of things to establish religion by human laws without perverting the design of civil law and oppressing the people.

The certificate that a dissenter produces to the society clerk (1784) must be signed by some officer of the dissenting church, and such church must be protestant-christian, for heathens, deists, Jews and papists, are not indulged in the certificate law; all of them, as well as Turks, must therefore be taxed to the standing order, although they never go among them or know where the meeting-house is.

This certificate law is founded on this principle, “that it is the duty of all persons to support the gospel and the worship of God.” Is this principle founded in justice? Is it the duty of a deist to support that which he believes to be a threat and imposition? Is it the duty of a Edition: current; Page: [1093] Jew to support the religion of Jesus Christ, when he really believes that he was an impostor? Must the papists be forced to pay men for preaching down the supremacy of the pope, whom they are sure is the head of the church? Must a Turk maintain a religion opposed to the alcoran, which he holds as the sacred oracles of heaven? These things want better confirmation. If we suppose that it is the duty of all these to support the protestant christian religion, as being the best religion in the world—yet how comes it to pass that human legislatures have right to force them so to do? I now call for an instance where Jesus Christ, the author of his religion, or the apostles, who were divinely inspired, ever gave orders to or intimated that the civil powers on earth ought to force people to observe the rules and doctrine of the gospel.

Mahomet called in the use of law and sword to convert people to his religion; but Jesus did not, does not.

It is the duty of men to love God with all their hearts, and their neighbors as themselves; but have legislatures authority to punish men if they do not? So there are many things that Jesus and the apostles taught that men ought to obey which yet the civil law has no concerns in.

That it is the duty of men who are taught in the word to communicate to the teacher is beyond controversy, but that it is the province of the civil law to force men to do so is denied.

The charter of Charles II is supposed to be the basis of government in Connecticut; and I request any gentleman to point out a single clause in that charter which authorises the legislature to make any religious laws, establish any religion, or force people to build meeting-houses or pay preachers. If there is no constitutional clause, it follows that the laws are usurpasive in the legislators and not binding on the people. I shall here add, that if the legislature of Connecticut have authority to establish the religion which they prefer to all religions, and force men to support it, then every legislature or legislator has the same authority; and if this be true, the separation of the christians from the pagans, the departure of the protestants from the papists, and the dissention of the presbyterians from the church of England, were all schisms of a criminal nature; and all the persecution that they have met with is the just effect of their stubbornness.

The certificate law supposes, 1. That the legislature have power to Edition: current; Page: [1094] establish a religion: this is false. 2. That they have authority to grant indulgence to non-conformists: this is also false, for religious liberty is a right and not a favor. 3. That the legitimate power of government extends to force people to part with their money for religious purposes. This cannot be proved from the new testament.

The certificate law has lately passed a new modification. Justices of the peace must now examine them; this gives ministers of state a power over religious concerns that the new testament does not. To examine the law part by part would be needless, for the whole of it is wrong.

From what is said this question arises, “Are not contracts with ministers, i.e. between ministers and people, as obligatory as any contracts whatever?” The simple answer is, Yes. Ministers should share the same protection of the law that other men do, and no more. To proscribe them from seats of legislation, &c. is cruel. To indulge them with an exemption from taxes and bearing arms is a tempting emolument. The law should be silent about them; protect them as citizens (not as sacred officers) for the civil law knows no sacred religious officers.

In Rhode-Island, if a congregation of people agree to give a preacher a certain sum of money for preaching the bond is not recoverable by law.*

This law was formed upon a good principle, but, unhappy for the makers of that law, they were incoherent in the superstructure.

The principle of the law is, that the gospel is not to be supported by law; that civil rulers have nothing to do with religion in their civil capacities. What business had they then to make that law? The evil seemed to arise from a blending religious right and religious opinions together. Religious right should be protected to all men, religious opinion to none; i.e. government should confirm the first unto all—the last unto none; each individual having a right to differ from all others in opinion if he is so persuaded. If a number of people in Rhode Edition: current; Page: [1095] Island or elsewhere are of opinion that ministers of the gospel ought to be supported by law, and chuse to be bound by a bond to pay him, government has no just authority to declare that bond illegal; for in so doing they interfere with private contracts, and deny the people the liberty of conscience. If these people bind nobody but themselves, who is injured by their religious opinions? But if they bind an individual besides themselves, the bond is fraudulent, and ought to be declared illegal. And here lies the mischief of Connecticut religion. My lord, major vote, binds all the minor part, unless they submit to idolatry, i.e. pay an acknowledgment to a power that Jesus Christ never ordained in his church; I mean produce a certificate. Yea, further, Jews, Turks, heathens, papists and deists, if such there are in Connecticut, are bound, and have no redress: and further, this bond is not annually given, but for life, except the minister is dismissed by a number of others, who are in the same predicament with himself.

Although it is no abridgment of religious liberty for congregations to pay their preachers by legal force, in the manner prescribed above, yet it is antichristian; such a church cannot be a church of Christ, because they are not governed by Christ’s laws, but by the laws of state; and such ministers do not appear like ambassadors of Christ, but like ministers of state.

The next question is this: “Suppose a congregation of people have agreed to give a minister a certain sum of money annually for life, or during good behaviour, and in a course of time some or all of them change their opinions and verily believe that the preacher is in a capital error, and really from conscience dissent from him—are they still bound to comply with their engagements to the preacher?” This question is supposable, and I believe there have been a few instances of the kind.

If men have bound themselves, honor and honesty call upon them to comply, but God and conscience call upon them to come out from among them and let such blind guides* alone. Honor and honesty are amiable virtues; but God and conscience call to perfidiousness. This shows the impropriety of such contracts, which always may, and Edition: current; Page: [1096] sometimes do lead into such labyrinths. It is time enough to pay a man after his labour is over. People are not required to communicate to the teacher before they are taught. A man called of God to preach, feels a necessity to preach, and a woe if he does not. And if he is sent by Christ, he looks to him and his laws for support; and if men comply with their duty, he finds relief; if not, he must go to his field, as the priests of old did. A man cannot give a more glaring proof of his covetousness and irreligion, than to say, “If you will give me so much, then I will preach, but if not be assured I will not preach to you.”

So that in answering the question, instead of determining which of the evils to chuse, either to disobey God and conscience, or break honor and honesty, I would recommend an escape of both evils, by entering into no such contracts: for the natural evils of imprudence, that men are fallen into, neither God nor man can prevent.

A minister must have a hard heart to wish men to be forced to pay him when (through conscience, enthusiasm, or a private pique) they dissent from his ministry. The spirit of the gospel disdains such measures.

The question before us is not applicable to many cases in Connecticut: the dissenting churches make no contracts for a longer term than a year, and most of them make none at all. Societies of the standing order rarely bind themselves in contract with preachers, without binding others beside themselves; and when that is the case the bond is fraudulent: and if those who are bound involuntarily can get clear, it is no breach of honor or honesty.

A few additional remarks shall close my piece.

I. The church of Rome was at first constituted according to the gospel, and at that time her faith was spoken of through the whole world. Being espoused to Christ, as a chaste virgin, she kept her bed pure for her husband, almost three hundred years; but afterwards she played the whore with the kings and princes of this world, who with their gold and wealth came in unto her, and she became a strumpet: and as she was the first christian church that ever forsook the laws of Christ for her conduct and received the laws of his rivals, i.e. was established by human law, and governed by the legalised edicts of councils, and received large sums of money to support her preachers Edition: current; Page: [1097] and her worship by the force of civil power—she is called the mother of harlots: and all protestant churches, who are regulated by law, and force people to support their preachers, build meeting-houses and otherwise maintain their worship, are daughters of this holy mother.

II. I am not a citizen of Connecticut—the religious laws of the state do not oppress me, and I expect never will personally; but a love to religious liberty in general induces me thus to speak. Was I a resident in the state, I could not give or receive a certificate to be exempted from ministerial taxes; for in so doing I should confess that the legislature had authority to pamper one religious order in the state, and make all others pay obeisance to that sheef. It is high time to know whether all are to be free alike, and whether ministers of state are to be lords over God’s heritage.

And here I shall ask the citizens of Connecticut, whether, in the months of April and September, when they chuse their deputies for the assembly, they mean to surrender to them the rights of conscience, and authorise them to make laws binding on their consciences. If not, then all such acts are contrary to the intention of constituent power, as well as unconstitutional and antichristian.

III. It is likely that one part of the people in Connecticut believe in conscience that gospel preachers should be supported by the force of law; and the other part believe that it is not in the province of civil law to interfere or any ways meddle with religious matters. How are both parties to be protected by law in their conscientious belief?

Very easily. Let all those whose consciences dictate that they ought to be taxed by law to maintain their preachers bring in their names to the society-clerk by a certain day, and then assess them all, according to their estates, to raise the sum stipulated in the contract; and all others go free. Both parties by this method would enjoy the full liberty of conscience without oppressing one another, the law use no force in matters of conscience, the evil of Rhode-Island law be escaped, and no persons could find fault with it (in a political point of view) but those who fear the consciences of too many would lie dormant, and therefore wish to force them to pay. Here let it be noted, that there are many in the world who believe in conscience that a minister is not entitled to any acknowledgment for his services without he is so poor that he cannot live without it (and thereby convert a gospel Edition: current; Page: [1098] debt to alms). Though this opinion is not founded either on reason or scripture, yet it is a better opinion than that which would force them to pay a preacher by human law.

IV. How mortifying must it be to foreigners, and how far from conciliatory is it to citizens of the American states, who, when they come into Connecticut to reside must either conform to the religion of Connecticut or produce a certificate? Does this look like religious liberty or human friendship? Suppose that man (whose name need not be mentioned) that fills every American heart with pleasure and awe, should remove to Connecticut for his health, or any other cause—what a scandal would it be to the state to tax him to a presbyterian minister unless he produced a certificate informing them that he was an episcopalian?

V. The federal constitution certainly had the advantage, of any of the state constitutions, in being made by the wisest men in the whole nation, and after an experiment of a number of years trial, upon republican principles; and that constitution forbids Congress ever to establish any kind of religion, or require any religious test to qualify any officer in any department of the federal government. Let a man be pagan, Turk, Jew or Christian, he is eligible to any post in that government. So that if the principles of religious liberty, contended for in the foregoing pages, are supposed to be fraught with deism, fourteen states in the Union are now fraught with the same. But the separate states have not surrendered that (supposed) right of establishing religion to Congress. Each state retains all its power, saving what is given to the general government by the federal constitution. The assembly of Connecticut, therefore, still undertake to guide the helm of religion: and if Congress were disposed yet they could not prevent it by any power vested in them by the states. Therefore, if any of the people of Connecticut feel oppressed by the certificate law, or any other of the like nature, their proper mode of procedure will be to remonstrate against the oppression and petition the assembly for a redress of grievance.

VI. Divines generally inform us that there is such a time to come (called the Latter-Day Glory) when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters do the sea, and that this day will appear upon the destruction of antichrist. If so, I am well convinced that Jesus will first remove all the hindrances or religious establishments, Edition: current; Page: [1099] and cause all men to be free in matters of religion. When this is effected, he will say to the kings and great men of the earth, “Now see what I can do; ye have been afraid to leave the church and gospel in my hands alone, without steadying the ark by human law; but now I have taken the power and kingdom to myself, and will work for my own glory.” Here let me add, that in the southern states, where there has been the greatest freedom from religious oppression, where liberty of conscience is entirely enjoyed, there has been the greatest revival of religion; which is another proof that true religion can and will prevail best where it is left entirely to Christ.

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David Tappan (1752–1803). The son of a Congregational minister, Tappan was born in Manchester, Massachusetts, and was graduated in 1771 from Harvard. In 1774 he was ordained pastor of the church in the third parish of Newbury, where he remained for eighteen years. He then became Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard, serving in that post until his death. Theologically, he was a moderate Calvinist; politically, he was an American patriot during the Revolution and a Federalist afterward. “One of the most prolific authors of the eighteenth century” (John F. Berens in American Writers Before 1800, p. 1410), Tappan published numerous sermons. His magnum opus, entitled Lectures on Jewish Antiquities, was published posthumously in 1807.

Noted for a plain preaching style, Tappan at first welcomed the French Revolution as a continuation of the American Revolution, clearing the way for the coming of the millennium through the destruction of popery. But he soon turned against the French revolutionists as diabolical and atheistic and joined with Timothy Dwight in a fierce denunciation of the movement. Tappan steadily taught the vital relationship of virtue and republicanism, a theme well-developed in the election sermon printed here, preached in Newbury before Governor Hancock, Lieutenant Governor Samuel Adams, and the Massachusetts legislature on May 30, 1792.

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Thou leddest thy People like a Flock, the Hands of Moses and Aaron.

Psalm 77, verse 20

How various and transcendent are the excellencies of the sacred writings! They combine all the different species of literary composition in their highest perfection, and consecrate them to the moral improvement, the present and future happiness of man. They furnish the best summary precepts, models, and incentives, for producing the good citizen and statesman, for effecting an orderly and prosperous state of things in the civil and temporary combinations of this world: Whilst their primary object is, to prepare men for the far nobler, the everlasting community of the blessed.

These observations are eminently illustrated by that part of the inspired volume, which relates to God’s ancient people. The words just recited, look back to the infancy of that favoured nation. They introduce the God of Israel under the beautiful figure of a shepherd leading his flock; which expresses in a very lively and endearing manner, the singular tenderness and care, with which heaven had conducted that people from the bondage of Egypt, to the promised Canaan. The latter part of the verse, presents the subordinate and united agency of Moses and Aaron, in accomplishing that memorable series of events. These two celebrated characters had been early and closely linked together, by the ties of nature, of religion, and of common sufferings. They were afterwards united by the more awful bond of a divine commission, which constituted them plenipotentiaries from Jehovah, the king of Israel, to the Egyptian court, which employed them as instrumental saviours of their oppressed countrymen, as their guides and protectors through the dangers of the wilderness, and the prime ministers of their civil and ecclesiastical polity. Whilst the one was chief magistrate in the commonwealth, the other was high priest, or first officer in the church. And the institution and combined influence of these two orders in that community, were a most wise and salutary provision both for its public and individual happiness.

The divine appointment, then, and concurrent agency of the civil and ecclesiastical ruler, in leading the ancient people of God, naturally Edition: current; Page: [1106] invite our attention to the importance and utility of political and religious guides in a christian state, and to that union of affection and of exertion for the common good, which ought to characterize and cement them. To explain and enforce this union, without confounding the church and the commonwealth, or blending the different provinces of their respective ministers, is a truly delicate task. The speaker hopes, however, that his well-meant endeavours to explore such a field, before an audience so respectable, will not be deemed either vain, or impertinent to the occasion. He flatters himself that the seasonable and momentous complexion of the subject, which cannot fail to strike every intelligent eye, will procure to the discussion and application of it a candid reception.

This joyful anniversary collects our civil and sacred leaders from various parts of the state, to one consecrated spot. It unites them, methinks, into one happy brotherhood. It brings them together to the altar of God, their common founder, master, and judge. It makes them joint partakers in a kind of yearly festival, sacred to liberty and to religion—a festival, which seems to renew and to seal mutual friendship, and their harmonious ardent affection to the general interest. Is it not congenial then with the spirit of the day, as well as decent and useful on other accounts, that these two orders should sometimes be the united object of its public addresses from the word of God; that their reciprocal influence, and their conjunct operation to the common good, should be clearly defined, and forcibly urged?

Under the solemn impression of these ideas, we will endeavour to mark out the two different provinces of Moses and Aaron, or of the ruler and the priest; the beneficent influence of each upon the public welfare; and the several ways, in which they may and ought to befriend and assist each other in leading the people of God.

The discriminating genius of the two departments may be thus defined. The one has for its immediate object, the temporal interest of mankind; the other, their spiritual and everlasting. The one aims to regulate their outward behaviour, so far as to restrain them from injuring one another or the public, and engage their contributions to the common welfare: The other contemplates the due regulation of the heart, as well as the overt-acts which issue from that source. The one enforces its addresses by sanctions merely civil and worldly; the Edition: current; Page: [1107] other by motives which chiefly respect the soul and the life to come.

Let us now turn our attention to the important and happy influence of each department upon the public interest.

The importance of such an officer in society as the civil magistrate, is immediately seen and felt by all. It grows out of the present weakness and corruption of mankind. It is suggested by the social feelings belonging to our frame, joined with a sense of mutual dependence and common danger. Accordingly, when such officer possesses the spirit of his station, and with intelligence and fidelity pursues its leading design, the effects on the community will be equally benign and diffusive. A ruler of this character, like the central orb of the planetary world, enlightens and animates, cements and beautifies the whole political system. With a skilful, steady, yet gentle hand, he moulds a confused mass of discordant materials into one regular and harmonious compound, and holds it together with a silken, yet invincible chain. By a strictly righteous, equal, and paternal administration, he spreads the blessings of justice, freedom, tranquillity, public and private prosperity, through all classes of the people. The advantages of such a magistracy transcend description. To use the delicate and splendid figures of inspiration. It resembles “the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; like the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.”

But it is needless to expatiate on this branch of our subject. The beneficent influence of good civil rule stands confessed to the eye of reason. It is inscribed, as with a sun-beam on the face of our happy country. It has been delineated with superiour ability and address, on these anniversary solemnities.

Let us then direct our attention to the other object before us, namely, the importance and benefit to society, of the christian priesthood, or of public religious instructors. To set this point in a just and easy light, let us consider at large, the necessity of religion to the well-being of a community, and then inquire, what are the best means of diffusing and maintaining it.

The necessity of religion to public order and happiness, has been generally acknowledged by discerning minds in all countries and ages, yea, by enlightened infidels and atheists. But a set of philosophers Edition: current; Page: [1108] and free-thinkers, who boast of their superiour reason and liberality, have appeared on the stage, in these days of modern refinement, who have employed all the powers of metaphysical sophistry and licentious ridicule to shake the foundations of religion: And some of them have even denied its political importance and utility, and have proposed in its stead a kind of philosophical or civil morality, as fully competent to the purposes of general order and security. A system of ideas, or at least of practical feelings, very similar to this, seems growing into fashion in various parts of the American Union; a system, which considers all religious principles, observances and instructors, as the remains of old monkish ignorance, superstition and bigotry, or the antiquated offspring of worldly policy, begotten in the early and ruder stages of society; but which are wholly unsuitable and useless, if not a heavy tax upon the public, in this more enlightened and mature period of human affairs! But let us meet these refined politicians upon their own ground; and ask them, what they have to substitute in the room of religion, as an adequate prop to their own favourite scheme of morality.

Will they say, that civil laws and institutions, planned with wisdom, and executed with vigour, will completely answer the purpose? But these human provisions can embrace only the visible actions of the subject. They can prevent or punish those offences only, which may be known and legally proved. They consequently, leave out of their jurisdiction all secret crimes; as well as those numberless immoralities, which human laws can never distinctly define, but which operate as the poison both of private and social felicity. Civil regulations proclaim their own incompetency, even in the judicial procedures submitted to their authority: For no general rule can accommodate itself to an infinite diversity of circumstances: And therefore the aid of religious principle seems absolutely necessary to supply the defect. This will teach the legislator to construct, and the judge to interpret and apply the laws, upon so just and liberal a plan, as will present the best advantages in every case, for discovering the truth, and so for protecting the innocent, as well as chastising the wilful offender. This will induce a conscientious, a filial and generous obedience, on the part of the subject, to the reasonable authority of the magistrate and the laws. At the same time it will prevent a cowardly, degrading Edition: current; Page: [1109] submission to the claims and measures of imperious despots, or a fawning, idolatrous, prostration at the feet of a dignified fellow-worm. In short, whilst human laws punish criminal actions, it is the glory of religion to prevent them, to tear up the roots from which they grow. Whilst law is deaf and unrelenting to the cries of penitent guilt, religion pardons and comforts the suppliant, returning offender, and hereby encourages and fortifies his purposes and efforts of future obedience. Whilst the one enforces strict justice only, the other inculcates the whole train of gentle and beneficent virtues: It inspires an intercourse of humane, generous kindness, and grateful attachment and fidelity, between the higher and lower classes in society; an intercourse, which like the vital fluid diffuses chearful health through the whole political body. Thus civil institutions and measures, even in their best state, require the succours of religion, to supply their deficiencies, to soften their rigour, to enforce and to sweeten their observance.

“But a sense of honour, the desire of esteem and praise, and fear of their opposites, joined to the efficacy of salutary laws, will certainly form a sufficient security of the general order and welfare.” We answer, the good influence of this principle will not bear a comparison with that of religion. For the praise or censure of the world, exerts its principal force within a very small circle, upon more splendid or public characters; whilst the great majority of the people, concealed under humble roofs, feel little of its efficacy. But religion applies its stimulating or withholding influence to the ignorant, the obscure, and the weak; as well as to the wise, the noble and the mighty. The world does not bestow its palm, till men have almost reached the goal; but religion applauds and cherishes the first virtuous desire, intention, or effort. The world often mistakes in its judgment of characters and actions; but religion places an unerring witness and judge in our very bosoms. In a word, even the esteem of men in the case before us, ultimately derives its force from religion. For if the social or moral virtues of mankind, were once stripped of the lustre, the stability, and the majesty, which religious principles communicate, the respect paid to them, would suffer an immediate shock: The idea of honour and disgrace, connected with their performance or omission, would be greatly enfeebled: And the opinion of the world, left Edition: current; Page: [1110] without a steady guide, would grow too fluctuating and capricious, to restrain or to actuate human conduct.

“But the connexion between the interest of the public and of individuals, lays a sufficient bond upon the latter to contribute to the order and welfare of the former.” We reply, this connexion is not always so immediate and striking, as to influence the unthinking, the poor and the wretched, to pay homage to the order and beauty of the social system, whilst there is nothing for them individually, but apparent deformity and misery; whilst those very principles and rules, which secure harmony to the public, wealth, power and magnificence to some of their fortunate neighbours, seem to bind them down to perpetual poverty and toil; and when a violation of these laws promises instant relief or benefit to themselves, and at the same time, perhaps threatens no direct injury to the community at large. There are some cases too, in which the more opulent ranks, or the governing powers of the state, may with reason consider the public interest and their own, as separate objects: And if their minds are not enlightened and regulated by religion, they will often view these two interests as distinct, when they really unite. They will also be supremely inclined to pursue private advantage, at the expence of every rival claim. In such instances, what is there effectually to restrain such elevated characters from sacrificing the public, at the shrine of their adored, though paltry idol? There is nothing which promises a sure and perpetual guard against these evils, but religious principles, the sentiment of a deity, and of a future state of recompence, early planted in the minds, and deeply rooted in the hearts both of the high and the low.

“But some infidel and irreligious characters have conducted well in a social and political view.” We answer, religious ideas early taught and imbibed, will secretly influence the conscience and practice, long after the understanding has begun to question, and even to reject the arguments, on which they are founded. Besides, a habit of order and propriety in conduct, once formed, is not easily subdued by after speculations; especially when an adherence to it is connected with the marks of public esteem and favour, or enforced by the commanding motive of private interest. Not to add, that there are some, who affect a superiority to the common mass of mankind, by talking like infidels, Edition: current; Page: [1111] who yet feel themselves constrained to think and act, in many instances, like vulgar believers.

“But if religion be the main prop of social order, why does not the latter always relax and decline with the former?” The answer is, religion still keeps her hold of men, through the medium of natural conscience, of early habit, and some awful controlling impression of a future retribution, even when their hearts do not feel her transforming power, nor their lives display her peculiar and most attractive charms. If then religious principles have such salutary effects on society, even when their influence is feeble, and when they manage the human mind by the inferiour and precarious handle of fear; what would be their fruits, if they reigned in full glory, and commanded the free and steady services of love? If love to God and men, which is the life of religion, pervaded all classes in the community, what a copious and excellent harvest would it quickly produce! This would ensure the universal practice of all those virtues, which nourish and exalt a nation; whilst it directly promoted the interest and comfort of all ages, conditions and stations; it would, as the great law of moral attraction, draw the affections and efforts of all to one common center, the good of the whole. Must not such a spirit and conduct immediately advance the respectability, the vigour, the temporal and spiritual prosperity of a people? Must they not draw down the approving smiles, the guardian care, the rewarding munificence of the Supreme Ruler of nations? On the other side, must not irreligion, and its natural offspring, vice, equally tend, both by a direct and a judicial operation, to disjoint, to enfeeble, to destroy a community? Does not the universal experience of public bodies from the beginning to this day, seal the truth of these observations? Is it not one mighty practical demonstration of the salutary fruit of piety and virtue, or the baneful influence of their opposites, upon the order, the liberty, the general welfare of nations?

The necessity of religion to public happiness being sufficiently proved, an interesting question arises; what are the best means of diffusing and maintaining in a community this precious and fundamental blessing? This inquiry brings up to view the importance of public religious instructors. The political necessity of such an order of men, directly results from that of religion itself, when compared with the Edition: current; Page: [1112] ignorance, dulness, and depravity of the human mind, the spiritual and sublime nature of religious truths, the want of leisure as well as ability in the bulk of mankind, for studying and familiarizing them, and the influence of surrounding objects of worldly cares and amusements to intercept their view, to efface or weaken their impression. [“]In this dark and impure region,” how apt are even the most contemplative and virtuous characters to lose sight of moral and spiritual objects, and to get out of the sphere of their attractive and regulating influence! How greatly then do we all need the friendly voice of stated monitors, to recal our forgetful, wandering feet; and to enlighten and warm our hearts afresh with the divine principles and motives of religion! Those in high station need to be frequently reminded, that there is a Being above them, to whom they are accountable, equally with the lowest of the people. Persons of great genius and learning, require to be often admonished that their obligations to serve God and the public, are proportioned to their superiour talents. The worthy and good in society, need a frequent and lively inculcation of those truths, which tend to nourish and fortify their virtues, to enliven and extend their efforts of usefulness. How much more needful, then is public religious instruction to the inferiour members of the community, to the numerous class of laborious poor, to the grossly ignorant, the careless, and the vicious! Without this, how shall they obtain a competent knowledge, or an abiding practical impression of their various relations and duties to God, to man, to civil society?

In this view, the public worship of the Deity, and stated instructions in religion and morality, appear as necessary and beneficial to the state, as they are to the souls of individuals: And the institution of a weekly sabbath, devoted to those purposes, is the offspring of profound and generous policy, if viewed merely in its aspect upon our present social condition. For the decent and united observation of it, by the members of each corporation, is, an eminent mean of promoting useful knowledge, civilization and good neighbourhood; of strengthening the cords both of political and christian union; of bringing seasonable rest and refreshment to the body and mind, after the fatigues of worldly care and toil; and of keeping alive in the minds of all ranks, an awful commanding sense of Deity, of moral and religious obligation: Agreeably, the public benefits of this institution Edition: current; Page: [1113] are distinctly visible on the face of those communities, which carefully support and observe it; whilst the contrary features equally distinguish those, which despise or neglect it.

The preacher cannot do full justice to this part of his theme, or to his own profession as a gospel minister, without adding, that the christian religion, properly stated and enforced by its teachers, has a peculiarly favourable influence upon the present social state of mankind: For, it is the volume of revelation only, that fully illustrates and confirms, and with due authority presses, those great religious principles, which we have shown to be the basis of virtue and of order. At the same time it superadds a new scheme of truth, suited to the lapsed state of mankind, which at once encourages, directs, assists and constrains to universal goodness; it presents the Deity, in the full orbed lustre of his perfections; it displays the matchless philanthropy, the generous expiation and intercession of his Son; it offers and conveys the needed succours of his spirit; it ascertains and describes the future joys and sorrows of immortality. Must not these discoveries, suitably realized, powerfully tend to check transgression—to kill the seeds of vice, and to produce, to enoble, and improve every branch of a virtuous character? The moral system too, which christianity builds upon these principles, is an eminent friend to our present felicity. For it inculcates the most extended, the most active, the most self-denying benevolence; it links us to the great brotherhood of man; yea, it unites us to the universe, to eternity, and to God, the head and sum of both. It levels all the haughty feelings of superiour rank or abilities, and places true greatness in humble, condescending, elevated goodness. By this, as well as by constantly pointing us to those two great levellers, death and an endless retribution, it introduces a kind of generous republican equality among the different orders and conditions in society. It equally regards and secures the interest of all the members of the community, by that great rule of equity, “whatever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them.” By presenting the same motives and rewards of virtue to the weak and the strong, and by urging both to secret acts of goodness, from a regard to the approving eye, and final recompence of the Supreme Judge; it provides a steady support, a constant opportunity, a universal engagement to the practice of virtue. We may add, it regulates and refines those important social connexions and duties, the conjugal, Edition: current; Page: [1114] parental and filial, in a manner highly favourable to the order and happiness of human society. In a word, the spirit of our religion, is uniting and peaceable: It is loyal, patriotick, and free: It is the life and support of good government and of rational liberty. Even the positive, ceremonial rites of christianity, properly administered, are important out-works, which guard the public welfare: For by striking upon the senses and imaginations of men, they bring affecting truths with peculiar force to their hearts, and hereby operate to produce a decent and regular outward deportment.

What an engine of public usefulness, then, does the christian institution put into the hands of its ministers! And how important is it to the common good, that such an order of men should be spread out over the whole community! What unspeakable aid may they afford to, as well as receive from, the civil magistrate! Whilst the people at large reap a plentiful harvest from the united labours of both! Which brings us more distinctly to point out the several ways in which the ruler and priest may and ought to combine their influence, or to assist each other, in leading the people of God.

We mean not to advocate such a union or cooperation of the two orders, as involves a heterogeneous mixture of civil and spiritual objects; as places the magistrate upon Christ’s throne, in the church, and invests the christian minister with the honors and the powers of the state: Such motley alliances are the offspring of political and priestly ambition, aided by equal cunning; are the main pillar both of civil and religious tyranny; and the source of infinite mischiefs to the intellectual and moral character as well as the temporal condition of mankind. They infect the best religion under heaven, its professors and ministers, with the spirit of this world, with a proud, cruel, persecuting and immoral disposition. As a celebrated writer observes, “persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but is always the strongly marked feature of all law, religion, or religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and religion re-assumes its original benignity. In America a Catholic priest is a good citizen, a good character, and a good neighbour; an Episcopalian minister is of the same description; and this proceeds from there being no law-establishment in America.”

But whilst we execrate such treasonable conspiracies between rulers and priests, against the dearest rights and interests of man, we Edition: current; Page: [1115] may consistently recommend to the two orders, a liberal and patriotick combination for the general good. There is indeed, in many respects, a natural alliance between intelligent, virtuous magistrates and ministers, in a free and christian state.

And first, the magistrate may and ought to cooperate with the christian instructor, by throwing the weight of his personal example and private influence into the scale of christian piety and virtue. The efficacy of example, when arrayed in all the splendour of high office, is not to be described. As religion adds grace and dignity to the most exalted station, so she derives a superiour charm and majesty from it.

When the great political characters in a community, give their uniform sanction to religion, by exhibiting her fairest features in their daily deportment; when they openly revere the name, the sabbaths, the temple, and all the sacred institutions of the Most High; when they liberally and zealously contribute to the settlement and support, the reputation and success of a learned and virtuous priesthood, to the extensive propagation of christian knowledge, and to the pious education of the rising age; when they are eminent patterns of virtue themselves, and are careful to cherish and honour it in others; how unspeakably do such examples confirm and extend the credit and influence of religion! What animation and confidence, what superiour respectability and success, do they give to its teachers! What authority and energy must the inward consciousness, and open lustre of such virtue impart to rulers themselves, in their official proceedings; especially those which have for their object, the suppression of wickedness, and the encouragement of the opposite interest! Which leads us to observe, that rulers efficaciously concur with christian ministers, when they carry the spirit of religion into their public conduct: When all their political measures are regulated by the everlasting maxims of natural justice, of christian equity and benevolence: When they accordingly distribute the burdens, apply the resources, fulfil the engagements and discharge the debt of the public, with the scrupulous fairness, the exact economy, the assiduous attention required by those rules, in the similar transactions of private citizens: When they detest and scorn the idea of sanctioning by their public authority, any measure, which they would blush to avow or to practise in their individual capacity: In short, when the whole system of their public conduct appears to be prompted and guided by a Edition: current; Page: [1116] supreme regard to the example and laws, the approbation and honour of the infinite Ruler and the good of his moral family: What a glorious attestation is here of the reality, the commanding force of religious obligation! Such a train of political measures is pregnant with various and almost inconceivable good. It inculcates various sentiments upon the public mind, with all the authority and force of the highest, the most conspicuous, and unequivocal example. It also directly and efficiently contributes to the general prosperity: For it proceeds upon principles, which are as essentially necessary and conducive to social union and happiness, as the laws which govern the material world, are to the harmony and welfare of nature.

Further, the magistrate may greatly strengthen the christian teacher, by directing his public attention to the advancement of religion and virtue as an immediate and primary object; by so arranging his measures for the increase of temporal good, as to render them in the best manner subservient to that which is spiritual and eternal; by enacting and executing laws for the prevention or punishment of profaneness and immorality; by promoting virtuous characters to offices of honor and usefulness; by neglecting and dispising the vicious; by lessening and removing the temptation to iniquity; by augmenting and multiplying the encouragements to goodness; by giving birth and efficacy to public and private means of learning, so essential to rational piety; by effectually providing for the support and decent observance of public religious worship and instruction so necessary, as we have seen, to the virtue, the civilization, and happiness, of the community. Such a legal provision for the maintainance of religious institutions, obviously falls within the province of the magistrate, on account of their transcendent importance to civil government and society: Nor does such provision adjusted upon an equal and liberal plan, make the least approach to a political establishment of any particular religious profession, nor consequently involve any invasion of the prerogative of Christ, or the sacred rights of conscience. On the other hand,

Secondly. The christian minister may and ought to strengthen the hands of the civil ruler. If he possesses those qualities of head and heart, which suit his benevolent and comprehensive office, he must have the most tender and ardent feelings for the interest of the state, as well as the church. He must perceive an important connexion between Edition: current; Page: [1117] them, as well as the friendly aspect of the christian doctrine upon both. He must consequently feel a double stimulus to a prudent and faithful discharge of his trust. He therefore endeavours, both in his public ministrations, and in his private conversation and example, so to represent and enforce the christian system, as that it may, under the divine blessing, have its full effect upon the character and condition of mankind, in reference to this world and the next. He takes particular care not to make this beneficent and peaceable religion, an engine of civil or spiritual tyranny, confusion, malignant strife, or in any respect, an instrument of increasing, instead of lessening human depravity and wretchedness. He feels himself peculiarly united to the worthy magistrate, by the ties of personal esteem and public affection. He studies that his whole deportment respecting the rulers and the laws, may express and promote a spirit of decent subjection and obedience, and he enforces such submission by all the authority and sanction of religion. His social intercourse with his family and flock, his daily prayers in private and in public, tend to kindle and to nourish the sentiments of loyalty and patriotism. He loves to mention in the ears of the rising race, the names and services of patriot rulers, of eminent public benefactors; and hereby to charm the tender mind to the love of virtue, of country, of mankind, as well as to a due veneration for, and grateful submission to such ministers of divine benevolence. His public discourses too, all tend either directly or remotely, to form his hearers into good citizens and subjects, as well as holy christians. That such a reciprocation of services between the two orders, falls within the line of propriety and important duty, is too obvious to the eye of discernment, to require a formal illustration.

It is with great satisfaction, that we appeal to the historic page of our own country, for a striking comment upon the preceeding discourse. Our fathers were led out of the house of bondage in Britain, into the wilderness of America, and planted here, as in the land of promise, by the same divine Shepherd, who led ancient Israel from deep oppression and misery, to the joys of freedom and plenty. The same good spirit, which inspired Moses and Aaron, to undertake and conduct so arduous an enterprize, evidently guided and animated the leaders in that great attempt, which gave birth to New-England. The same union of friendship, of counsel and exertion in the public cause, which characterized the Hebrew lawgiver and high-priest, distinguished Edition: current; Page: [1118] the political and religious fathers of Massachusetts. The rulers of the state, were at the same time members and pillars of the church. The religion which they thus solemnly professed, was the rule of their public and private conduct, and the advancement of its interests, a main object of both. For this purpose, they readily co-operated with the schemes and endeavours of worthy clergymen, and contributed their best efforts for their comfort, reputation and success.

The advice and influence of the priesthood were likewise ever at hand, to aid and succeed the operations of the magistrate, and to promote the civil, as well as religious interests of the people. It is granted, indeed, that our ancestors carried this union of church and state, to an unwarrantable length. But this was not their peculiar fault: It was the complexion of the age. And shall we, their children, who owe so much to their generous services and sufferings, shall we, like undutiful and cursed Ham, take pleasure in exposing their nakedness? No, my fellow-citizens; whilst we spread a veil of filial piety over their imperfections, let [us] with the most grateful emotions, celebrate that united agency of Moses and Aaron, which, under God, laid such early and noble foundations of freedom and order, of science and religion; which in the feeble infancy, and great poverty of the settlement gave birth to a public seminary of learning; a seminary, which from its foundation, to this day, has borne on its front the united inscription of the ruler and the priest, in the names of its founders, and benefactors, of its governors and sons! But passing over the intermediate stages of our history; you will permit me modestly to ask, does not the inscription just mentioned, appear very conspicuous on the face of our late glorious revolution? Did not these two orders remarkably unite their efforts to keep the public mind in a posture of vigilance, of information, of patriotic ardour? In those times which tried men’s souls, did not the public prayers and discourses, the private influence and example of the great body of the clergy, firmly and successfully co-operate with the civil and military measures of the country? Did not the same zealous concurrence of the two departments, procure the adoption of the excellent constitution of Massachusetts, and of the present federal system, which gives union, order, and happiness to America? Did not the same virtuous and unshaken combination eminently mark that perilous and alarming Edition: current; Page: [1119] crisis, which a few years since passed over this commonwealth? Do not these striking facts evince, that the spirit of the clerical office at least, in this enlightened and free country, is an important friend to the liberty, government and happiness of society? On the other hand, it becomes us gratefully to acknowledge the support which religion and its ministers have received from the civil government of this state, from the authority and example of some of the first political characters in it; the additional reputation and success which they have instrumentally derived from that source; and the consequent face of superiour union and order, civilization and virtue, which adorns a great part of our community. These advantages would strike us with much greater force, were we allowed to contrast our situation in these respects, with that of some other parts of the Union: But decency forbids the invidious comparison.

When we look over this numerous and respectable assembly, a cloud of witnesses rushes upon our senses and hearts, in support of the ideas now advanced.

Our eye is first caught by the chief magistrate of this commonwealth, who has had a large share in the great political drama, that has been acted on the stage of the new world, and covered it with glory. The presence of his Excellency restrains the lips of delicacy from paying him a formal tribute of praise. But while his distinguished political services are engraven on every American bosom, justice to a different part of his character, constrains us to observe, that he has ever treated religion, its institutions and ministers, with a respect becoming the enlightened, consistent patriot, and ruler, in a christian state. The clergy within his jurisdiction, feel the animating influence of his attention and patronage, and wish him in return, a large experience of the comforts of our divine religion, amidst that trying scene of bodily infirmity, with which he has so long been afflicted. It is also our united prayer to God, that his Excellency may ever form his whole private and public conduct upon the divine model proposed in the life and precepts of the christian lawgiver. That so his personal example and official measures may unite their influence to spread piety and virtue as well as every temporal blessing, through the community. To this, he will feel himself urged by every motive, which can operate upon a heart of sensibility; in particular, by the interesting prospect of death and endless retribution, to Edition: current; Page: [1120] which the highest earthly god is equally bound with the lowest of his subjects. May conscious fidelity chear the solemn hour of dissolution, inspire boldness before the decisive tribunal, and be crowned with superiour glory in the kingdom of heaven.

His Honour, the lieutenant-governour, merits our tribute of respect, on account of that distinguished union of political wisdom, patriotic virtue, and christian piety, which has long dignified his character. Notwithstanding the eminence of his reputation among the civilians of the age, he has not been ashamed of the cross of Christ, but has long been inlisted under that despised, but heavenly banner. May he still continue an ornament and pillar, both of the church and commonwealth, till his hoary head shall come down to the grave in peace.

The Honourable council claim our regards, on account of their important share in the executive department, and worthy personal qualities, which pointed them out to the suffrages of their enlightened fellow-citizens. Whilst their elevation to this office reflects on them a ray of glory, it obliges them to a correspondent dignity of sentiment and conduct: It invites them to a noble imitation of the governing wisdom, justice and mercy of him, who is the wonderful Counsellor, the King of righteousness and of peace. It particularly calls them to advise and consent to the appointment of such characters only, to interpret and execute the laws, as are exemplary themselves for the observance of human and divine injunctions, and endowed with talents and dispositions suited to the important trust. In this way they may unspeakably promote the civil and moral interests of all parts of the commonwealth.

The gentlemen who compose the two branches of the Honourable legislature, will permit our congratulations on the fresh mark of esteem and confidence, with which their constituents have honoured them. They will likewise remember that the trust, with which they are charged, is very solemn and momentous; that it is rendered still more awful, by the declarations and oaths, with which they have recently entered on its execution. As we cannot doubt their sincerity in those professions and appeals to heaven, we entertain a chearful hope that all their transactions on this day and through the year, will be regulated by the excellent principles of that religion, and of those civil constitutions which they have publicly taken for their guide. We Edition: current; Page: [1121] reasonably expect that all their laws and proceedings will be so many branches growing out of the stock of equal justice and comprehensive benevolence; that they will be strongly marked with the same integrity, virtue and honor, which suit and adorn the rational and christian character in a private capacity. They will ever remember that the same practical principles, must form the basis both of public and individual happiness and glory; and that the policy of those who would rear the fabrick of national prosperity upon a different foundation is equally unphilosophical and iniquitous. As human art, in order to produce certain useful effects must conform to the principles of nature, or the established laws of its great Architect; so the politician must build the order and welfare of society upon those moral principles and connexions, which the same Almighty Ruler, has instituted in the rational system. If he act an opposite part, he virtually, attempts a new creation: Yea, like the man of sin, he exalts himself above all that is called God; for it is the glory of the Deity himself, though he be an absolute Almighty Sovereign, that he cannot govern upon any other plan than that of inviolable truth, justice, and goodness; that he cannot lie to any of his subjects, or trifle with their reasonable petitions, expectations or claims. It will be the glory of our rulers, to copy after this divine original. No idea therefore of omnipotence or uncontrolled sovereignty, will be permitted to infect their deliberations and decisions; but their whole conduct, as it respects particular citizens, the commonwealth in general, and the great American republic, will, we trust, exhibit a fair picture of honest, enlarged and federal policy.

Honored fathers: As you do not remove out of the sphere of religious obligation, by entering the circle of politicks; as you, have all this day professed the christian belief, and many of you are complete visible members of the Redeemer’s family; you will feel under the most sacred ties, to devote the superiour powers and advantages of your present stations, to the christian interest. Whilst therefore you tenderly guard the rights of conscience, and afford equal protection to all peaceable citizens, you will make and enforce every needful provision for the general diffusion of religious and moral sentiments, and for the maintenance and observation of those christian and literary institutions, which are requisite to that end. Among such institutions, the neighbouring university has a distinguished claim to your liberal Edition: current; Page: [1122] patronage. It has been one of the grand nurseries of civilization, liberty, good government and religion. Our very existence, as a respectable community, is, under God, greatly derived from that source. Filial gratitude then, as well as every sentiment of public virtue, press our rulers to nurse and cherish this their ancient parent, with a tender and generous care.

In a word, let me respectfully call upon all our civil officers, in every department, to consecrate their authority, influence and example to the greatest good of the community. You, gentlemen, collectively considered, are the moving and regulating principle of the whole political machine. If you jointly and strenuously pursue a virtuous train of conduct, it will operate like a powerful charm upon all parts of the system, and call up a new creation of beauty, virtue and happiness. Let it then be your first ambition and endeavour, to make mankind wiser, better and happier; to raise up the drooping head of virtue; to tread down irreligion and vice; to enlarge the empire of knowledge and righteousness; to augment as much as possible, the sum of created good, and of creating and redeeming glory.

And since the advancement of these great interests lies very much between you and the standing teachers of religion, let gentlemen in these different orders cultivate a friendly and patriotic alliance, by all the methods which prudence and generous virtue suggest.

Ye venerable leaders of our civil and ecclesiastical tribes; how many and how forcible are the ties which bind you together! In this land of political and religious freedom, you both derive your election to office from one source; you are fellow-labourers in one great and benevolent cause; you are important members of one civil body, and by visible profession and sacred obligation, of one christian family; in the due performance of your several offices, you display the same leading excellent talents and virtues, and mutually give and receive the most important support. Certainly then, there can be no strife, no jealous distance between you; for ye are brethren. We congratulate the people of Massachusetts, on the liberal and virtuous union, which at this moment subsists between you, and which is particularly exemplified in those numerous laudable incorporations, which embrace many of your first characters; and which have for their object, the interests of science, of arts, of education, of humanity, of christian knowledge and piety. To perpetuate this union and render it still more operative Edition: current; Page: [1123] to the general good, and not the low selfishness or vanity of exalting and strengthening his own profession, considered as a separate interest, has been the preachers governing motive in this discourse; and with a view to the same grand object, he modestly submits to the candour of both departments, a few monitory hints, suggested by the present aspect of society and of religion.

In the first place: Our leading characters in the civil and the literary line, will feel the peculiar importance, at this degenerated period of animating their clerical brethren, in every method dictated by wisdom and virtue; and particular, by encouraging them to calculate their public ministrations upon principles of the most extensive usefulness. They will consider, that many of us are connected with societies, which are chiefly composed of the labouring and more illiterate class; that these peculiarly need the privileges of a weekly sabbath and public religious instruction; and that many of them require very plain, and very pungent applications, in order to enlighten their ignorance, to rouse their stupidity, or to check their vicious career. Our christian patriots, therefore far from despising, will generously aid those teachers, who frequently endeavour, by all the methods of familiar, pathetic, or alarming address, to reach and refine these rougher parts of the community. The enlarged knowledge and experience of our learned civilians will also inspire sentiments of candour towards the priesthood, in regard to that variety of speculation, of gifts, and address, by which it is diversified; they will view this diversity as naturally resulting in great measure from the spirit of free inquiry and improvement, which characterizes the present day. They will consider too, that it furnishes public teachers suited to the various capacities, tastes and prejudices, and all the grades of character and condition, which at this period mark the face of society. They will further consider, that the operation of republican equality and religious freedom, will sometimes introduce a christian instructor not perfectly agreeable to the relish or the speculations of a few superiour members of a corporation, but perhaps very acceptable and beneficial to the general mass of the people. In such cases, does not a regard to social order, to equal rights, to the greatest moral and political good, require a generous and peaceable acquiescence?

On the other hand it becomes the clergy at this day studiously to hold up their office, and the religion which they teach, in the most Edition: current; Page: [1124] respectable and pleasing light. A special attention to this object, is rendered important, by the present improved state of society; by the learning and politeness, which adorn many of our religious assemblies; by the rapid progress of loose sentiments and manners, and the consequent disrelish or contempt of christian doctrines, institutions, and teachers. To check these spreading evils it becomes the sacred order to pay great attention both to the private and public duties of their function; it becomes them, in the performance of the latter, to display a force of reasoning, a propriety of thought, of method and expression, a decency of style and address, which may at once bear down the scoffs and the sophistry of libertinism, justly please the taste of literary refinement, and at the same time exhibit the plain, the affectionate, the evangelical preacher. It becomes them both in their ministrations and personal example, to represent the christian institution and ministry, as friendly to human happiness in both worlds; as breathing a social and courteous, a candid and forbearing, a loyal, uniting, and public spirit; a spirit, which whilst it supremely attaches us to the service and rewards of the life to come cherishes a proper sensibility of our rights, duties, and enjoyments as inhabitants of the earth. It becomes them in every consistent method, to support the civil interests of the community, the respectability of its rulers, and the efficacy of its laws. And whilst law speaks to the public ear, in one uniform, inflexible tone, it is ours, my reverend fathers and brethren, to bring home the addresses of religion to the bosoms of individuals; and by a pertinent and forcible application of her peculiar truths and sanctions, to seize their consciences, their imaginations, their hearts; to possess and command their inmost feelings. By this process, under the influence of the all creating spirit; we are first to mould them into good men, and then by an easy transition into good citizens, rulers and subjects. Above all, let us ever keep in our own realizing view, and endeavour to enforce upon our people, the primary, the infinitely weighty object of our religion and ministry, viz. the spiritual, everlasting salvation of immortal beings, and the glory of God and his Son, shining forth in the wondrous contrivance, and accomplishment of it. Whilst our rulers are pushing forward our temporal prosperity and glory, let us labour to establish and to complete that glory, by a corresponding advancement of this most important object. Into this channel let us endeavour to draw all the Edition: current; Page: [1125] civil and literary, as well as religious advantages, which come within our reach. Let the united efforts of the clergy and laity, be especially employed in diffusing christian knowledge and virtue, through those vast territories of our country, whose poverty, and remote situation have precluded the stated enjoyment of religious institutions; and in promoting a more general and effectual attention to the private means of education, in various parts of the commonwealth. By such a union of public exertion, our leading characters in church and state, will resemble the two olive-trees, which the Prophet saw in vision, emptying their golden oil into the candlestick of Zion.

Fellow-citizens of this great assembly,

I felicitate you and our common country, on the natural, civil and religious advantages, by which we are so eminently exalted; and especially on the prosperous train of our national affairs, under the auspices of indulgent heaven, and its favourite minister, the President of the United States. When we mention this beloved citizen and benefactor of America, every bosom present, feels the endearing and forcible illustration, which his example gives to the leading sentiment of this discourse. For the charm of his piety, of his public and private virtue, as well as political wisdom, has been a principal cement of our national union, and so a prime source of all its attendant blessings. What then is wanting to complete the glory and happiness of our country? Nothing but the general prevalence of the same excellent spirit; a spirit of sublime virtue, corresponding to the natural grandeur and extent of America, and to its noble constitutions of government and religion. Virtue enlightened and invigorated by political and christian knowledge, is eminently the soul of a republic. It is necessary to direct, to enliven, to guard the election of its rulers, and to secure to them, the generous confidence, submission and co-operation of the people. It is peculiarly requisite in a community like ours, spread out over such an immense continent, divided by so many local governments, prejudices and interests: A people so circumstanced, can never be firmly and durably united, under one free and popular government, without the strong bands of religious and moral principle, of intelligent and enlarged patriotism. Liberty planted in such a soil, will be perpetually tending to unbridled licentiousness, distracting jealousies, and popular confusion. Let us then set up a vigilant Edition: current; Page: [1126] guard against these encroaching evils. Let us not imagine that the exercise of civil liberty, consists in ignorant or envious abuse of public characters and measures; nor that religious freedom will justify careless neglect or wanton contempt of the truths, the ordinances, and ministers of that religion, which was sent down from heaven to guide us, to present and future happiness. Though we are not accountable to the civil magistrate for our religious sentiments and worship; yet we certainly are to the Deity; and he has given us no liberty in this enlightened country, either to think with deists and sceptics, or to live like atheists; nor will the prostitution of his Sabbaths, to idleness or amusements in defiance of human and divine laws, pass in his account for a mark of superior politeness or liberality. In opposition to these wicked, but too modish abuses of liberty, let us remember that energetic government, is the guardian of freedom, and that religion, especially the christian, is the pillar of both. Let us then properly respect, support, and concur both with our civil and religious ministers. Let us exercise the most scrupulous care in the election of both, and be rationally satisfied, that their heads and hearts, their principles and morals, comport with the spirit of their several offices. But having chosen them, let us treat their persons and administrations with that confidence and honour, which become a wise and magnanimous people, and which may, by the blessing of God, give the greatest effect to their benevolent labours.

Finally: As the crown of all, let us become pious towards God, humble and obedient believers in his Son, conscientiously submissive to the government and laws of our country, sober, frugal, and diligent in our several employments, just and kind to one another, unitedly and zealously attached to the great interests of America, and of the whole human fraternity. Then we shall hold out an inviting example to all the world, of the propitious operation of a free government; we shall encourage and accelerate the progress of reason, and of liberty, through the globe. Already has the new world diffused the light and warmth of freedom across the Atlantic, into the old; which has given birth to a surprising and glorious revolution. Let us be nobly ambitious, by our future conduct, to feed and extend the generous flame; and thus to realize the wishes and hopes of all benevolent spirits in heaven and earth. Let us especially labour and pray, that these political struggles and changes, may, under the divine agency, Edition: current; Page: [1127] introduce new and brighter scenes of christian knowledge and piety, till the whole world shall be covered with divine glory and human bliss. And may we in particular, after having filled our departments in society here, with usefulness and honor, be united to the more glorious community of the righteous; where the official distinctions of Moses and Aaron, are known no more; where all the followers of the Lamb, shall form one royal priesthood, one mighty combination of perfect and happy immortals; and God the original source of being and blessedness, shall be all in all.

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Peter Thacher (1752–1802). Thacher, the great-grandson of Reverend Peter Thacher (d. 1727), graduated in 1769 from Harvard with highest honors. He later had conferred upon him a doctor of divinity degree from the University of Edinburgh. He was pastor at the Congregational Church in Malden, Massachusetts, from 1770 to 1784, and then moved to the Brattle Street Church in Boston, where he remained until his early death from tuberculosis (in Savannah, Georgia). Regarded by George Whitefield as the ablest preacher in the colonies—he called Thacher the “young Elijah”—his oratorical powers were much valued by Massachusetts patriots, who gave him special “beating orders” to organize the coastal defense. Chaplain to the General Court, he was the probable author of the Resolutions of Malden to its General Court representative. He later represented the town in the convention that framed the 1780 state constitution. After the Revolution, he was active in a number of affairs, including the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the Indians, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the Humane Society, the Charitable Fire Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also a founder (in 1791) and a trustee of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Thacher published twenty-two sermons, a list of which is given in William Emerson, A Sermon on the Decease of the Reverend Peter Thacher, D.D. (1803).

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Then the five men departed and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man.

Judges XVIII.7.

All scripture is written for our instruction. It is intended not only to reveal to us the purposes of God’s mercy and the requisitions of his will, but to furnish our minds with the wisdom which is profitable to direct us in the various situations to which by Providence we are called. The history of the Bible contains a lively picture of human life and manners. It paints the various feelings which agitate the heart of man at different periods. It describes the manner in which individuals and bodies of men have conducted in different circumstances. It points out the motives of their conduct, and the consequences which resulted from it. And thus the word of God furnishes us with maxims of wisdom, and lessons of experience, without our paying the dear price at which they are sometimes purchased. From this history we find that mankind have been much the same in all ages; that the same passions and principles have actuated them all; and that the same effects have generally resulted from the same causes.

Modern philosophers are ready to suppose that they have made great improvements in the knowledge of mankind, and in the various systems by which human governments may be formed and supported with the most happy success. But if we read the history of the Bible, we shall be ready to conclude with Solomon, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun.” In this history we shall find the same general principles laid down which are now considered as the basis of free and happy states, and the same methods prescribed to preserve and increase them when they are formed. It is difficult to find any situation now to which there cannot be found some parallel in the sacred volume.

The maxim, “that it is necessary in peace to prepare for war,” is Edition: current; Page: [1134] now adopted by every human government. Founded in reason and good sense, this maxim will be questioned by no one who does not doubt the lawfulness of war in all cases. Experience decides positively upon its truth, and the conduct of mankind proves their conviction of its expediency. And a striking example of the truth of this maxim is given us by the words of the text. The men of Laish were careless and secure; they had no order nor government; they considered themselves as at a distance from any enemy, and in no danger of an invasion; and these very causes operated to incite the Danites to invade them, and rendered their conquest easy and certain.

“Laish,” say commentators,* “afterwards called Caesarea Philippi, was placed in a very pleasant situation between the rivers Jor and Dan, almost at the foot of mount Libanus. This town was the extreme border of Judea to the north, as Beersheba was to the south. The inhabitants dwelt after the manner of the Zidonians. The city of Zidon was nearly surrounded by the sea; it was strongly fortified, and thus its citizens felt perfectly secure. The Zidonians were a very powerful people, and had little to dread from any of the nations around them. This occasioned them to feel perfectly at ease; and the men of Laish, who were probably a colony from Zidon, catched the manners of the parent state, and without the same reason felt the same security. They were distant a day’s journey from Zidon, which was sufficient to prevent them from receiving thence immediate assistance and support, in an attack suddenly commenced and finished. When the history says that they had no business with any man, it probably means that they did not carry on trade and commerce with any people, and lived entirely by themselves; or else, that they had so little care of their safety, and so high an opinion of their own abilities, as to form no league or alliance with any other people.”

The history to which the text relates is briefly this: The tribe of Dan had not conquered the whole portion of land assigned to them in Canaan; and being straitened for room, they determined, by a vigorous exertion, to procure to themselves the accommodation which they needed. They acted prudently and wisely in the prosecution of this design; for, they did not at once commence an emigration without having any certain object before them, but detached a small party to Edition: current; Page: [1135] find out a place adapted to their views, and a people that could be easily conquered. Laish presented itself to them as calculated to answer both these purposes. The motives which induced the children of Dan to attack the place, and the reasons which made the conquest so easy, are briefly recounted in the report of the spies: “Arise, that ye may go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold it is very good: And are ye still? Be not slothful to go and to enter to possess the land. When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land; for God hath given it into your hands—a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.” The fertility of the soil, and the pleasantness of the situation, animated their wishes to possess the land. The perfect security in which the people dwelt, and their total unpreparedness to defend themselves, calmed their fears of any formidable resistance. They came, they saw, they conquered. And the people of Laish fell, a melancholy proof of the danger of security, and a striking demonstration of the necessity of preparing against violence and invasion, even in a time of the most profound peace, and at the greatest distance from any enemy.

This lesson, so strikingly delineated in the history before us, is the lesson of the day. We are now met in the house of God to assist the devotions of an ancient and respectable military corps, founded by our ancestors, to guard against the very error which proved fatal to the existence and independence of Laish. This corps was intended as a nursery for the officers who should command the militia of the colony, and who might thus train them up to “fight for their brethren, their sons and their daughters, their wives and their houses.” Deeply as these good men were impressed with the peaceful religion of Jesus Christ, they still believed the lawfulness and necessity of defending the liberty and property which God had given them. Brave and hardy, like the wilderness which they subdued, they could not endure the idea of yielding their independence even to the boldest invader; and therefore by vigilance and exertion, by order and discipline, they guarded against the danger, or prepared themselves to repel it. They founded therefore this company, in which the principal men among them cheerfully enrolled themselves, and where the man who had commanded armies did not feel his honor injured, or his dignity impaired, by being commanded in his turn.

The occasion therefore, and the sentiment of the text, lead me[:]

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In the first place, to remark upon the folly which a people discover, and the danger to which they expose themselves, when they live in a state of security, unprepared to resist an invasion, or defend themselves against the attacks of an enemy.

But how are we to defend ourselves when our country is invaded, and we are threatened with the loss of every thing we hold dear, by the violence and fury of an enemy? By declaring, with the honest Quaker, that we will not resist any force which may come against us, because our holy religion forbids us to fight? By long and learned and critical orations upon the injustice and cruelty of invasion, and its inconsistency with the rights of man? Shall we send the ministers of religion to meet an army of invaders, and to tell them that they are not doing as they would be done by; that they act inconsistently with the religion of Christ, and that God will punish them for their injustice? Or, shall we spread out our supplicating hands to them, and beg them not to shed brethren’s blood, nor deprive us of the liberty, the property and independence which God has bestowed upon us, and which we desire to transmit to our children?

Were all mankind actuated by the peaceful religion of Jesus Christ (as they will be at some future period) then these methods would be effectual; but under the present circumstances of human nature they would be the subject only of derision. So deeply is the human heart depraved, so strongly do ferocious passions operate upon mankind, as that the still small voice of reason and religion cannot be heard. The loud calls of ambition and avarice drown their feeble whispers, and a torrent of violence and oppression sweep away their warmest advocates.

In these circumstances, our only method is to resist force with force, to repress the violence which we do not provoke, and to let men know that we will defend with our lives the liberty and the happiness which God has given us.

But it is strange, some will observe, that doctrines of this nature should be preached by a minister of peace, who professes a religion which breathes the warmest benevolence, and teaches mankind to live and love as brethren! Our master, will they say, “came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them”; he strictly prohibits every degree of wrath and envy, and enjoins us to follow [“]peace with all men.”

The lawfulness of defensive war has been so often proved from this Edition: current; Page: [1137] place, upon these occasions, as that many observations upon the subject will be needless. We must take mankind as they are, because they will not be what they ought. We know that there are men, and many men, who are totally destitute of moral principle, and care not whom they wound or destroy, if they can enrich and aggrandize themselves. We know that there are nations who wish to assume universal authority, and subjugate their neighbours to their will. Can any man, in the exercise of common sense and reason, suppose that the Gospel prohibits us to resist such violence? Am I obliged to deliver my purse to an highwayman, or my life to a murderer, when I am able to defend myself? Does the religion of Christ enjoin its votaries to submit to the violence of the first ruffian nation which will attack them; to give up their liberty, and the liberty of their children, to those who would make them “hewers of wood and drawers of water?” If my brother, agitated with a delirium, attempts to injure me, or take away my life, am I to yield myself a quiet victim to his distraction? These questions carry their own answer with them, and must strike conviction to every unprejudiced mind; for to act in this manner will be to present our throats to the butcher, and to court our own destruction.

Wars undertaken to gratify the lust of power, differences excited by those “lusts from whence come wars and fightings among men,” are decidedly contrary to the law of God. Every good man mourns over those fatal contentions where kindred blood is shed; and where brethren of the same family, children of the same father “bite and devour one another.” But where a people contend not for glory or conquest; where they take every method to avoid an alternative so disagreeable; yet where they cannot preserve their lives, their liberties, their estates and their religion, without “resisting unto blood,” they are to do so. If they do it not, they offend against God], and voluntarily sacrifice the birthright which he has given them. God of old commanded his people to resist such attempts, and to make war upon those who attacked them; and would he have done this had war been unlawful in all cases, and directly contrary to the nature and reason of things? I am aware that he permitted many things under former dispensations “because of the hardness of men’s hearts,” because the state of human nature would not permit them to be different; but then he never expressly enjoined men to do what was Edition: current; Page: [1138] morally wrong? War he has enjoined; and Meroz was cursed by divine command, because they “came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.”

If it is lawful thus to defend ourselves, and if we have reason to expect the divine protection and support only in the use of proper means, then it is certainly wrong to neglect these means, and to live in a state of supineness and security; because discipline and military knowledge are absolutely necessary to successful war; and such discipline cannot be attained at once. All knowledge is progressive, and military skill is to be acquired in the same way, by the same exertions and perseverance which make us eminent in any other science. True it is, that native bravery and ardent enthusiasm will do much to animate men to heroic deeds in defence of their country; but with how much greater advantage do these principles operate, when they are tempered with discretion, and guided by experience! The first is the courage of a mastiff, who shuts his eyes, and runs into the very jaws of destruction, but who sometimes bears all before him; the second is the fortitude of a man, who knows the nature of his object, and the means by which it may be accomplished. A nation free and brave cannot be conquered; but its defence must cost more dearly, and its distresses must be greatly protracted, if its subjects are not acquainted with the art of war. Absurd and foolish then it is, for any people to live in security, to flatter themselves that their tranquillity shall not be interrupted, and to remain ignorant of military discipline! They act unwisely when they do not learn the art of defending themselves, until that defence is immediately necessary; and when they trust to their enemy’s beating them into skill, and instructing them to be soldiers, as the “men of Succoth were taught with briers and thorns.”

It is certainly unwise, again, for a people to live in security, without preparing against invasion until that invasion takes place, because exertions for defence suddenly made will not be so effectual, nor answer the same purpose with those which are made coolly and with time. If fortresses are suddenly erected, they will want strength and firmness. If an army is raised, and they are called to fight before they have been instructed in the first rudiments of war, they will probably be defeated. Haste is no friend to wise counsels or to effectual defence. The spur of the occasion may animate to vigorous exertions for a short time, and despair may lead a rude and undisciplined multitude Edition: current; Page: [1139] to do wonderful things; but their violence will soon put them out of breath, and a cool and wary enemy will be able gradually to defeat and disperse them. In these cases, as in all others, skill and knowledge will make hard things easy, and will save much labour and pains. By a wise and judicious mode of defence, not hastily adopted, but carefully adjusted in all its various parts, much damage may be prevented, and many valuable lives may be saved. What wise people then will neglect, even in the bosom of tranquillity, to guard against every surprise, and prepare themselves to resist the first bold intruder who may attack them!

No people can have any ground for security while they are destitute of the means of defence. They lie open to every danger, and are liable to be insulted, abused and conquered, by any nation which may think them worthy of their attention. Such a state ought to excite alarm, and no people should be easy while they are exposed to danger so imminent. But their listlessness, like that of a man in a lethargy, commonly increases with their disease, and generally terminates in the death of their liberty.

But, preparations made in peace, and an ability to resist invasion are, thirdly, the most effectual means to prevent it. Their neighbours will esteem it madness and folly to expose themselves to such a formidable resistance; and a people thus prepared and disciplined will be an object, not only of veneration, but of fear. Marauders, tyrants who wish to carry their despotism into foreign countries, or to fatten on their spoils, will not choose for their objects those hardy and skilful nations, who stand ready to defend themselves and their country. Such men will look, as did the tribe of Dan, for some people who dwell quiet and secure, without vigilance, without discipline or the means of resistance. Such a people court invasion, they invite an attack, and beckon to those who delight in spoil to “come and take away their place and nation.” Wary and prudent commanders will consider long before they attack a fortress strongly fortified and well garrisoned; and they will count the cost before they invade a country whose inhabitants are all trained to discipline, and “know how to use the sword and the bow.” But the weakness of a fortress, the ignorance or security of a people, mark them as proper subjects to be attacked and conquered.

Respectability always attends the vigilance and discipline which I Edition: current; Page: [1140] am recommending. It is a proof of wisdom to look forward and prepare for futurity, to guard against any danger which may arise, and to provide remedies for every disaster which may happen. Such conduct is a proof of a healthy and vigorous state; it discovers energy in council, and an elastic well braced government. This people will stand high in the estimation of the world. Their alliance will be courted, and this will give them new strength and new defences. The saying of our Lord, alluding however to a more important circumstance, will in this case be fully accomplished—“Unto him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance, but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.”

The history of mankind will furnish us with numberless instances wherein the truth of these observations has been exemplified. Scarcely a page of this history can be opened which does not contain full conviction of it. But we need not go from our own age or our own times to find this conviction. The people of America have proved it to the world, and have reaped the happy consequences of vigilance and discipline, as well as of personal bravery. At the commencement of our late controversy with one of the most formidable nations upon earth, we had not the means of defence which other nations enjoy. We were without ammunition, without money, and without allies; but we had an hardy yeomanry, zealous in the cause of liberty, and versed from their infancy in the use of arms. Every man had been more or less trained and disciplined; and we had a general acquaintance with military science. We proved the benefit of this preparation, when we met the embattled legions of Britain, and spread terror through hosts commanded by their ablest generals. The heights of Charlestown witnessed the bravery of our citizens, and furnished a convincing evidence of the wisdom of those institutions which made the people of New England soldiers from their cradle. Superior as were our foes in equipments, “in all the pomp and circumstance of war,” yet still they paid so dearly for their victory as that the acquisition of one or two more such victories would have ruined them.

And how deplorable would have been our situation, had we not been thus instructed and prepared for defence! Attacked by an enemy who claimed a right to “bind us in all cases whatsoever,” and whose high toned spirits were exasperated at the idea of resistance, we must have fallen a prey to their violence, and bidden an everlasting farewell Edition: current; Page: [1141] to liberty and its blessings. Taskmasters, worse than Egyptian, would have been set over us, and our children must have toiled to support the luxury of their oppressors.

But when resistance had taken place, and we had declared ourselves independent, what miseries, what exquisite distresses would have been the probable consequences of our subjugation! An incensed soldiery would have given way to their unhallowed lusts, and disregarded the laws of God and man to gratify their cravings! Alas!—what sound is this which pierces my heart? It is the shrieks of a tender wife, wrested from the arms of a beloved husband, to gratify the appetitie of a lordly master! But whence are those soft complainings, those deep drawn sighs? They are the lamentations of injured innocence, of violated virtue, of the defiled virgin, who has fallen a victim to brutal force! But why does busy imagination transport me to a scene still more painful? Why does it hurry me to the field of blood, the place of execution for the friends of American liberty? Whom does it there call me to see led to the scaffold with the dignity of Cato, the fortitude of Brutus, and the gentleness of Cicero marked deeply on his countenance? It is the gallant Washington, deserted by his countrymen, and sacrificed because he fought in their defence! Of whom consists yonder group of heroes? It is an Hancock, an Adams one and the other, a Franklin, a Rutledge!—but I repress the bursting sentiment—the bare imagination bows my soul with unutterable grief!

Thanks to the God of armies, and to the vigilance and bravery of our countrymen—these distressing scenes were never realized! Freedom, peace and independence have blessed our land; and the very nation whom we opposed, laying aside the bitterness of civil contention, has extended to us a friendly hand, and now declares herself happy in our alliance. A recurrence to past scenes should not therefore excite our resentment; it should only animate us to the vigilance, the bravery, and the active preparation which proved, under God, the means of our deliverance.

I proceed to remark, fourthly, on the necessity of government to the existence and defence of any people.

One reason assigned for the easy conquest of Laish is, “that there was no magistrate in the land, who might put them to shame in any thing,”—who could punish them for doing wrong, or make any man ashamed of his want of virtue or patriotism. Such a people must fall Edition: current; Page: [1142] an easy prey to an invader; for without government no people can remain in security, nor can any nation be defended from its enemies.

By restraining vice, the magistrate prevents men from contracting habits of effeminacy. He guards them from weakness of mind, and excites them to hardihood and patriotism. The great and noble principles of love to our country, of sacrificing private interest to public happiness, of guarding the rights of posterity, and disseminating universal felicity, cannot subsist in a mind narrowed and depraved by criminal indulgence. Vice makes cowards of mankind. It contracts and stifles the noblest principles of human action, and renders men abject in their sentiments and conduct. As far as vice is discountenanced, as far as men are made ashamed of doing base and unworthy actions, so far general security is increased, and the aggregate of national strength is enlarged.

The design of good government is to form a focus to which all the diverging rays of power in a community may be collected, and which may enable a people to bring the force of the whole to one point. This accumulated power protects every individual in his rights; it guards the weak from the violence of the strong, and the few from the oppression of the many. The same power is competent to defend the whole from invasion or other injury. Nothing can be done by way of defence where there is no government. Money cannot be raised. Men cannot be disciplined—nor can any great object be steadily pursued. When a people without government are invaded, every man will propose and pursue his own mode of defence. A thousand different schemes will be thrown out. The people will be distracted in their views; and before this distraction can be calmed, a final conquest may save them the trouble of defending themselves for the future. A nation rent with divisions, destitute of law, of subordination and rulers, presents a proper object for an attack, because it promises an easy if not a valuable conquest. The very people themselves who have been agitated by different scenes, who have no rest for the soles of their feet, who find their lives, their liberties and estates afloat, and exposed to the lawless violence of any who may be pleased to seize them, this people themselves will join an invading army, and prefer any security, any protection to none at all. Without government, indeed, without law and order, there is no liberty, no security, no peace nor prosperity. Men ought to guard their rights; they ought to Edition: current; Page: [1143] resist arbitrary power of every kind; they ought to establish a free government; but no people can be safe, no nation can be happy where “every man does what is right in his own eyes,” and the people are driven about by the whirlwind of their passions.

If, again, a government is free and just, they will be cheerfully supported by the people in defending their country. Wars too often arise from the ambition or other passions of princes and great men, and the justice of them may be properly doubted. Where an interest exists in the government separate from that of the people, the latter will always feel a jealousy, and will not be ready to give them effectual support. But where “our rulers are from among ourselves, and our governors proceed from the midst of us”; where every man, elevated as his station may be, returns at stated periods to the mass of the people; where our rulers cannot injure us without hurting themselves, we may cheerfully acquiesce in their calls to defend ourselves, and may be sure that they will not wantonly engage in a war, which exposes them as well as us to heavy expense and grievous misfortune. The conscientious soldier, who will not support a war which he does not believe to be lawful, may here feel his mind perfectly at ease, and may discover his skill and his fortitude in defending his injured country, or supporting its just claims. Happy people, who are blessed with such a government! Happy land, shadowed all around with the tree of liberty, and yet strengthened and united by a firm and vigorous government! No wonder that thou art envied by other nations, who are either crushed by arbitrary power, or distressed by confusion and anarchy!

The reasons against indulging to security, and neglecting to provide for defence, I observe once more, operate with peculiar force upon a people whose distant situation prevents their receiving assistance from their allies. The people of Laish were far from the Zidonians, and had no business or connexion with any man. The sacred historian informs us also, that the Danites came “unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure, and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire, and there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon.” If a people dwelling thus remotely do not defend and help themselves, no one can help them. Before their friends and allies can hear of their distress, it may be complete; and they may be subdued and ruined before the least assistance Edition: current; Page: [1144] can be given them. This consideration should operate strongly upon a nation thus situated, and induce them to keep themselves in a constant state of defence; to cultivate military skill and discipline among the inhabitants; to be provided with all the means of defence; to keep a vigilant eye upon the state of all nations, so that they may not be surprised on a sudden; and to put all their fortresses into such a condition, as that they may be able to check a sudden attack, and give time for the people, the natural bulwarks of the state, to assemble and resist their daring invaders.

The past discourse, you must be sensible, hath had a respect to the situation of this country, and the duty of this day. We, my fellow citizens, dwell in a distant part of the world, far removed from any allies, and very little interested in the politics of Europe. This circumstance should not only operate to excite us to pay a close attention to the state of our militia, and the means of our defence, but it should prevent us from engaging in their quarrel, or adopting their wars. Our assistance can be of very little benefit to them, but it may essentially injure us. Our country is young, and cannot bear the loss of men, which is the certain consequence of war. It is free, and does not wish its citizens to mix with the slaves of Europe, and catch their servile manners. It venerates religion, and will find no advantage, should its people associate with those who despise religion, and trample upon every divine law. In case of a war, we cannot be supported or assisted by any European power as they can support one another; and America may be essentially injured before our allies in Europe can know that an enemy has attacked us. God in his providence has placed us in a remote part of the world, and if our brethren in other countries “fall out by the way,” we will endeavour to reconcile them, but we will not become partners in their quarrels. They have a right to choose their own governments, and manage their own affairs, without our interference. God does not call us to war. We are not attacked nor endangered; until we are, we have no right to spill our own blood, or that of our children. Let us then “study the things that make for peace.” Let us unite in repressing those restless spirits who cannot see a quarrel going on without inserting themselves in it. Let us be ready constantly to exert our good offices in bringing about peace; and let us devoutly pray that God would hasten the time when “wars shall cease from the earth,” and the peaceful kingdom of Edition: current; Page: [1145] Jesus Christ, which breathes nothing but good will to men, shall universally prevail.

Through the goodness of God, America now enjoys a great degree of peace. She has passed through an arduous contest, and having struggled long with formidable distress, she is effectually relieved; and while she breathes the pure and fragrant air of liberty, her prosperity rapidly increases, and her branches extend far and wide. On our frontiers indeed a cloud, not bigger than a man’s hand, has arisen, and has extended to a formidable and distressing degree. Our armies have been defeated, and we mourn the brave men who have fallen in the wilderness, and whose bones are now whitening in the sun. It is not for me to determine upon the necessity or expedience of this war. As a minister of religion, I can only wish and pray for peace, and anticipate the time when “the sword of the wilderness” shall destroy no more.

If, my brethren, we mean to guard ourselves from invasion, and to lengthen out our tranquillity, we must cultivate a good government; we must reverence the laws, and support the magistrate in “putting to shame those that do evil.” It is a duty enjoined by our holy religion to submit to such government, and it is a maxim founded in eternal truth, that no people can be conquered or destroyed who are united in supporting a free and good constitution. A consciousness of being freemen, of being protected in the enjoyment of life and property, by laws which know not the rich from the poor, or the great from the small; this consciousness will give men elevation of sentiment; it will inspire them with fortitude and perseverance, and make them superior to all the slaves and sycophants upon earth.

While we support our various constitutions of government, and guard against intestine divisions, we ought to pay a strict attention to the state of our militia, and the other means of defence. Americans will never suffer a standing army among them in time of peace. The militia are the natural defenders of this country. They have a stake in it. They have a share in its sovereignty; and they fight for their wives, their children, their liberty, and their all. Such men cannot be cowards; they must be brave and determined; and when any of these blessings are taken from them, or threatened to be done away, they will be “like a bear robbed of her whelps,” and will determine to conquer or die.

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But this very ardor and impetuosity may be fatal to them, unless they are under the direction of judgment and discipline. These are necessary to check their effervescences, and lead their efforts to such points as may be most beneficial. Our militia then should be disciplined. Our young men should be early instructed in the art of war, and every one should hold himself in readiness to “play the man for his people, and the cities of his God.” Let us have our fortresses in good repair, and be ready at all points to resist an invasion; and this is the most likely method to prevent it.

Your institution, gentlemen of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, is designed to answer this important purpose, and is a striking proof of the wisdom and foresight of our ancestors. Venerable men! My heart warms when I view the schools, the colleges, the churches which they founded; and when I see this company assembled, so admirably adapted “upon all our glory to create a defence.” Methinks I see them looking down from the seats of bliss, smiling to behold this favourite institution flourishing and increasing; delighting themselves in the good of which they thus laid the foundation, and charging us to transmit the freedom and happiness which they have given us, a fair and a large inheritance to the latest posterity!

You are citizens, gentlemen, as well as soldiers, and you know the necessity of order and government. These you will feel it your duty to support and preserve, while you value and defend the liberty of your country. You know that these duties do not interfere. You know that without government freedom cannot subsist, because government alone can protect the helpless individual, or restrain the lordly tyrant. You know also that a free government is necessary to animate and direct the efforts of a people in their own defence, and that the tree of liberty never flourishes, unless it is preserved from rude violence by the sacred barriers of law and justice.

Countenanced by the commander in chief, who himself formerly led a corps in some respects similar to your own, and encouraged by the good wishes and plaudits of your fellow citizens, you are becoming every year more useful and respectable. The choice which you have made of men to command you, who have known not only the parade, but the reality of war, and have bravely defended the liberties of America, has done you and your country honor. Men of the first abilities have been heretofore the objects of your choice; and I Edition: current; Page: [1147] hope that the elections of this day will prove, that you are still governed by the same wisdom and prudence, which in this respect have heretofore marked your conduct.

Should you be called to defend your country, or protect its rights, I have no doubt but that you would prove your military skill to be no impediment to brave and valorous exertions. Sure I am, that you would never turn your backs to an enemy, or suffer yourselves to be defeated. You are Americans. You are descendants of men, who sacrificed every thing to assert their liberty. Many of you have “jeoparded your lives on the high places of the field,” and your bosoms glow with genuine patriotism. Such men are invincible. Nothing can subdue them but the power of that Being who hath declared, “that the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.”

Go on, gentlemen, and prosper. In peace prepare for war. Cultivate in your own breasts, and impress upon your children, an ardent love to civil and religious liberty. And while you discharge your duty to society, forget not the Being who has made you what you are, at whose tribunal you must all stand, and whose “favour is better than life.” If you submit to his Gospel, and are governed in heart and in life by its precepts, you shall be made “more than conquerors”; your brows shall be adorned with unfading laurels, and your triumphs shall be complete and eternal!

We live, my brethren of this assembly, in a day when grand and important scenes are acting upon the theatre of the world. We have seen “kings led in chains, and nobles in fetters of iron.” We have seen the towers of despotism, erected in dark ages, and sacred to the uses of tyranny and oppression, tumbling to the ground, and razed to their foundations. We hear “of wars and rumours of wars.” Mankind “bite and devour one another.” “Brother is pursuing brother unto death,” and the earth is crimsoned, deeply crimsoned, with Christian blood. Humanity sheds a tear over the folly of her sons, but faith lifts her keen and humble eye from earth to heaven, and anticipates the good which shall come out of this evil: She expects the fulfilment of those precious promises which speak of the future peace and happiness of man; and teaches us to exclaim, “amidst the wreck of nature and the crush of worlds,” Alleluia, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

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Samuel Miller (1769–1850). A native of Delaware, Miller was educated at home by his father, Reverend John Miller, and his brothers, followed by a year at the University of Pennsylvania and theological training with Reverend John Nisbet, principal of Dickinson College. He was ordained a Presbyterian minister in New York City in 1793 (the year of the sermon reprinted here) and eventually became pastor of the Wall Street congregation that later became First Presbyterian Church. He was appointed professor of church history and government at Princeton Theological Seminary, which he had helped to found in 1813. Under Miller, Archibald Alexander, and George Hodge, the seminary dominated Princeton for over fifty years.

A man of great energy, Miller published dozens of books and pamphlets on a wide range of subjects, from suicide, to slavery, to the theater. His Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century (2 vols., 1803) won him honorary D.D.’s from Union College and from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a founder of the New York Bible Society, a corresponding member of the Philological Society of Manchester, England, corresponding secretary of the New Historical Society, a trustee of both Columbia College and the College of New Jersey, historian and later moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly, and chaplain of the first regiment of the New York State artillery.

Although Miller was not a striking preacher, he was a good one, and the quality of his mind and depth of learning are reflected in the sermon from July 4, 1793, published here.

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And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.

II. Corinthians, iii. 17.

In contemplating national advantages, and national happiness, numerous are the objects which present themselves to a wise and reflecting patriot. While he remembers the past, with thankfulness and triumph; and while he looks forward, with glowing anticipation, to future glories, he will by no means forget to enquire into the secret springs, which had an active influence in the former, and which, there is reason to believe, will be equally connected with the latter.

These ideas naturally arise, in the mind of every American citizen, especially on this anniversary of our country’s natal hour. While we review, with gratitude and exultation, the various steps which have paved the way for our political advancement, we are obviously led to search for the happy principles, which laid at the foundation of these—and while we suffer fancy to draw aside, for a moment, the veil which covers futurity, and to disclose its bright scenes, we cannot overlook the same objects, on the extension and farther influence of which, we are to build our hopes.

We have convened, indeed, principally to celebrate the completion of another year of freedom to our western world. We are to keep this day as a memorial of the time which gave rise to the precious privileges we enjoy, as a sovereign and independent people. It may, therefore, be imagined, that our only proper employment, on the present occasion, is, to take a retrospect of the interesting scenes, which that glorious æra presented to the mind, and to recount the noble atchievements, which, under the direction of infinite wisdom, laid the foundation of our prosperity and happiness. But why should our chief attention be directed toward these objects? They are objects, indeed, upon which to gaze, delight and elevate the patriotic mind. They are objects, which, to lose sight of, is to forfeit the character of a faithful citizen. But, at the same time, they are objects too familiar to all present to need the formality of repetition. I address many of those who were near witnesses of these stupendous transactions; and not a few who were agents in the important work. Whose hearts burn Edition: current; Page: [1154] within them, at the recollection of events, which the world beheld with amazement: and who view with transport, the political greatness which these events were the means of ushering in, and establishing in our country.

In an audience of this description, then, where is the necessity of my trespassing on your patience, by a bare recital of what is so well known, and so feelingly remembered? Where is the need of my attempting, with minute care, to call up to your view, the patriotic and wise management of our counsels, in those trying times—the fortitude and enthusiastic ardor of our heroes—the splendor of our conquests—or the dignity and glory to which we are exalted by the supreme Arbiter of nations? Rather let us turn our attention to the grand Source, from which we are to expect the long continuance, and the happy increase of these invaluable gifts of heaven.

And to this choice of a subject I am also led by the recollection, that the respectable society to which this discourse is, in a particular manner, addressed, hold up, as the great object of their attention, every thing that may tend to promote the progress of civil liberty, and to transmit it, pure and undefiled, to the latest posterity. They profess to stand as guardians over those inestimable rights and privileges, which have been so dearly purchased, and, in general, to seek, in every form, the advantage of their country. To an association established upon such laudable principles, nothing that is included in these great outlines of their system, can be considered either as foreign to their plan, or beneath their attention. Nothing can be considered entirely inapplicable to their designs, in celebrating this auspicious day, that is, in any degree, connected with the promotion of public dignity and happiness.

It is under this impression, my fellow citizens, that I propose, on the present occasion, to offer you a few general remarks on the important influence of the Christian religion in promoting political freedom. And, as the foundation of these remarks, I have chosen the words which have just been read in your hearing.

I am well aware, that these words, taken in their proper sense, have a principal reference to liberty of a different kind from that to which I would accommodate and apply them. They refer to that glorious deliverance from the power, and the ignoble chains of sin and satan, which is effected by the Spirit of the Lord, in every soul, in Edition: current; Page: [1155] which his special and saving influences are found. They point out, also, that release from the bondage of the legal administration, which the gospel affords to all who receive it in sincerity and truth. But, as I am persuaded the proposition contained in our text is equally true, whether we understand it as speaking of spiritual or political liberty, we may safely apply it to the latter, without incurring the charge of unnatural perversion.

The sentiment, then, which I shall deduce from the text, and to illustrate and urge which, shall be the principal object of the present discourse, is, That the general prevalence of real Christianity, in any government, has a direct and immediate tendency to promote, and to confirm therein, political liberty.

This important truth may be established, both by attending to the nature of this religion, in an abstract view; and by adverting to fact, and the experimental testimony with which we are furnished by history.

That the corrupt passions and the vices of men, have, in all ages of the world, been the grand source and support of tyranny, and of every species of political and domestic oppression, is a truth too well known, and too generally admitted, to require formal proof, on the present occasion. A moment’s reflection on the nature of tyranny, and of those dispositions in the constituent members of society, which lead to its origin and advancement, is sufficient to convince every unprejudiced mind, that human depravity is the life and the soul of slavery. What was it that first raised this monster from the infernal regions, and gave him a dwelling among men, but ignorance, on the one hand, and on the other, ambition and pride? These his complotters and associates, proceeding in a state of indissoluble connection, have always held up his deformed head, and wielded his iron rod. Together they have invariably come into being—together they have lived and flourished—and into one common grave have they sunk at last.

The truth is, that political liberty does not rest, solely, on the form of government, under which a nation may happen to live. It does not consist, altogether, in the arrangement or in the balance of power; nor even in the rights and privileges which the constitution offers to every citizen. These indeed, must be acknowledged to have a considerable effect in its promotion or decline. But we shall find, on a close Edition: current; Page: [1156] inspection, that something else is of equal, if not of greater importance. Cases may easily be conceived, where, without a single material or glaring deficiency in any of these, true and desirable liberty may be almost unknown: and, on the other hand, where, under the most wretched organization of government, the substance of freedom may exist and flourish. Human laws are too imperfect, in themselves, to secure completely this inestimable blessing. It must have its seat in the hearts and dispositions of those individuals which compose the body politic; and it is with the hearts and dispositions of men that Christianity is conversant. When, therefore, that perfect law of liberty, which this holy religion includes, prevails and governs in the minds of all, their freedom rests upon a basis more solid and immoveable, than human wisdom can devise. For the obvious tendency of this divine system, in all its parts, is, in the language of its great Author, to bring deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to undo the heavy burthens; to let the oppressed go free; and to break every yoke. But to be more particular—

The prevalence of real Christianity, tends to promote the principles and the love of political freedom, by the doctrines which it teaches, concerning the human character, and the unalienable rights of mankind; and by the virtues which it inculcates, and leads its votaries to practice. Let us take a hasty view of each of these—

Can oppression and slavery prevail among any people who properly understand, and are suitably impressed with, those great gospel truths, that all men are, by nature, equal—children of the same common Father—dependent upon the same mighty power, and candidates for the same glorious immortality? Must not despotism hide his head in those regions, where the relations of man to man are distinctly realized—where citizens, of every rank, are considered as a band of brethren, and where the haughty pretensions of family and blood, are viewed in all their native absurdity, and in those odious colours in which this sublime system represents them? In short, must not every sentiment, favorable to slavery, be forever banished from a nation, in which, by means of the benign light of the glorious sun of righteousness, all the human race are viewed as subject to the same great laws, and amenable to the same awful tribunal, in the end.

Christianity, on the one hand, teaches those, who are raised to Edition: current; Page: [1157] places of authority, that they are not intrinsically greater than those whom they govern; and that all the rational and justifiable power with which they are invested, flows from the people, and is dependent on their sovereign pleasure. There is a love of dominion natural to every human creature; and in those who are destitute of religion, this temper is apt to reign uncontrouled. Hence experience has always testified, that rulers, left to themselves, are prone to imagine, that they are a superior order of beings, to obey whom, the ignoble multitude was made, and that their aggrandizement is the principal design of the social compact. But the religion of the gospel, rightly understood, and cordially embraced, utterly disclaims such unworthy sentiments, and banishes them with abhorrence from the mind. It contemplates the happiness of the community, as the primary object of all political associations—and it teaches those, who are placed at the helm of government, to remember, that they are called to preside over equals and friends, whose best interest, and not the demands of selfishness, is to be the object of their first and highest care.

On the other hand, Christianity, wherever it exerts its native influence, leads every citizen to reverence himself—to cherish a free and manly spirit—to think with boldness and energy—to form his principles upon fair enquiry, and to resign neither his conscience nor his person to the capricious will of men. It teaches, and it creates in the mind, a noble contempt for that abject submission to the encroachments of despotism, to which the ignorant and the unprincipled readily yield. It forbids us to call, or to acknowledge, any one master upon earth, knowing that we have a Master in heaven, to whom both rulers, and those whom they govern, are equally accountable. In a word, Christianity, by illuminating the minds of men, leads them to consider themselves, as they really are, all co-ordinate terrestrial princes, stripped, indeed, of the empty pageantry and title, but retaining the substance of dignity and power. Under the influence of this illumination, how natural to disdain the shackles of oppression—to take the alarm at every attempt to trample on their just rights; and to pull down, with indignation, from the seat of authority, every bold invader!

But again—The prevalence of Christianity promotes the principles and the love of political freedom, not only by the knowledge which it Edition: current; Page: [1158] affords of the human character, and of the unalienable rights of mankind, but also by the duties which it inculcates, and leads its votaries to discharge.

The fruits of the spirit are, justice, love, gentleness, meekness, and temperance: Or, in other words, these are among the distinguished graces and duties, which the Christian system not only commands us constantly to regard, but which it creates in the mind, and which are found to prevail, in a greater or smaller degree, in all who sincerely adopt it. Now these are unquestionably the grand supports of pure and undefiled liberty—they stand equally opposed to the chains of tyranny, and to the licentiousness of anarchy.

It is a truth denied by few, at the present day, that political and domestic slavery are inconsistent with justice, and that these must necessarily wage eternal war—so that, wherever the latter exists in perfection, the former must fly before her, or fall prostrate at her feet. What, then, would be the happy consequence, if that golden rule of our holy religion, which enjoins, that we should do unto all men whatever we would wish that they should do unto us, were universally received and adopted? We should hear no more of rulers plundering their fellow citizens of a single right; nor of the people refusing that obedience to equitable laws, which the public good requires. We should see no oppressor claiming from his equals, a subjection which they did not owe; nor should we see the latter lifting up their lawless hands, to resent the reasonable requisitions of an authority constituted by themselves. In short, were this principle universally to predominate, we should see nothing, on the one side, but demands founded on a sincere regard to the general interest; and, on the other, that ready compliance, which promotes the peace and happiness of society.

No less extensively beneficial in its effects on civil liberty, is that pure and refined benevolence, which the Christian system inculcates, and establishes in the minds of those who are under its government. Though the constitution of a country be ever so defective; yet if every rank of citizens be under the habitual influence of that universal charity and good will, which is one of the distinguished glories of our holy religion, there will freedom substantially flourish. To suppose that oppression, with the numerous hell-born woes, which follow in his train, can be cherished in regions, where the mild spirit of benevolence Edition: current; Page: [1159] and love reigns, is to suppose that the most discordant principles are capable of uniting; that demons of darkness, and angels of light can dwell together in harmony. Impossible! Wherever that heavenly temper is found, which, like the Deity himself, delights in showering down blessings, both on enemies and friends; there will the unalienable rights of men be acknowledged, and every infringement of them will be viewed with abhorrence.*

Nor let us omit to take notice of the peculiar temperance and moderation, which the gospel system enjoins. These are of no less importance, with respect to their influence on political happiness, in general, and especially as they affect the interest of civil liberty. It is an observation as old as the fact upon which it is founded, that nothing more certainly tends, to subvert the principles of freedom, and abate a laudable enthusiasm for republican equality, than a departure from that simplicity of manners, and that prevailing moderation, which our religion inculcates and promotes. Ever since the establishment of civil society, the words of the Roman poet, when speaking of his own country, have been applicable to most great empires—

  • Sævior armis
  • Luxuria incubuit, victumque ulcisitur orbem.
  • Juv.

But for this evil, there is no preventive that promises so much success, no cure so effectual, as that which is here presented. Christianity, more powerful than human strength, and more efficacious than human law, regulates the passions, and roots out the corruptions of men. It not only tames the savage breast, and gives a deadly blow to barbarity of manners; but also tends to quench every extravagant thirst for power; to beat down every high thought, that exalteth itself Edition: current; Page: [1160] against the general good; and to render men contented with those rights which the God of nature gave them. While these dispositions prevail, slavery must stand at an awful distance, bound in chains, and

  • Liberty, fair daughter of the skies!
  • Walk in majestic splendor o’er the land,
  • Breathing her joys around—

Having thus contemplated, in an abstract view, the native tendency of the Christian religion, to promote civil liberty; let us now take our stand with history, that mistress of wisdom, and friend of virtue, who from her exalted station, causes human events to pass in review, before her impartial tribunal.

When we compare those nations, in which Christianity was unknown, with those which have been happily favored with the light of spiritual day, we find ample reason to justify the remarks which have been made. It may be asserted, with few exceptions, that there never was a regularly organized government, since the foundation of the world, where the true religion was not received, in which political slavery did not hold a gloomy reign.* It has been generally found, indeed, that in proportion as the faint glimmerings of the light of nature, with which pagan nations were favored, gathered strength, and grew in brightness, in the same proportion has something like social freedom been promoted and extended. But these glimmerings have still proved inadequate to the desirable purpose, of imparting to their liberty a consistent and permanent character. As examples of this truth, you will readily recur to the African and Asiatic kingdoms, not excepting some in other quarters of the globe.

On the other hand, it may be observed, with equal confidence, and with fewer exceptions, that there never was a government, in which Edition: current; Page: [1161] the knowledge of pure and undefiled Christianity prevailed, in which, at the same time, despotism held his throne without controul.* It is true indeed, that in the Christian world, during those centuries wherein gross superstition reigned, and the truth was buried in darkness, slavery reared his head, and scattered his poison among men. It is true, that then, the cloud of oppression sat thick and deep over the nations, and the world was threatened with a relapse into ancient barbarity. But when, at the auspicious æra of the reformation, the great source of day rose again upon the benighted world; when the true knowledge of the Lord revived, the truth speedily made men free. When, in this splendid and glorious light, they began to see what they were, and what they ought to be; they delayed not to cast off their chains, and to assert their rights, with dignity and independence. This is the light, which ever since those days, has been gradually undermining the throne of tyranny in Europe. This is the light, which, gathering strength and refinement, by its passage over the mighty deep, hath kindled a flame in this western world, which, we trust, will continue to blaze, with encreasing brightness, while the sun and moon shall endure.

Nor is it political slavery alone, that yields to the mild and benign spirit of Christianity. Experience has shewn, that domestic slavery also flies before her, unable to stand the test of her pure and holy tribunal. After the introduction of this religion into the Roman empire, Edition: current; Page: [1162] every law that was made, relating to slaves, was in their favor, abating the rigors of servitude, until, at last, all the subjects of the empire were reckoned equally free.*

Humanity, indeed, is still left to deplore the continuance of domestic slavery, in countries blest with Christian knowledge, and political freedom. The American patriot must heave an involuntary sigh, at the recollection, that, even in these happy and singularly favored republics, this offspring of infernal malice, and parent of human debasement, is yet suffered to reside. Alas, that we should so soon forget the principles, upon which our wonderful revolution was founded! But, to the glory of our holy religion, and to the honor of many benevolent minds, this monster has received a fatal blow, and will soon, we hope, fall expiring to the ground. Already does he tremble, as if his destruction were at hand. With pleasure do we behold many evident presages of the approaching period, when Christianity shall extend her sceptre of benevolence and love over every part of this growing empire—when oppression shall not only be softened of his rigours; but shall take his flight forever from our land.

That happier times, and a more extensive prevalence of liberty, are not far distant, there are numerous reasons to believe. If so signal and glorious has been the influence of Christianity, in promoting political and domestic freedom, notwithstanding her restrained and narrow operation among men, what may we not expect, when her dominion shall become universal? If such have been her trophies, amidst so much opposition, and the continual struggles of contrary principles, what may we not indulge the hope of seeing, when her empire shall be coextensive with terrestrial inhabitants—when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the depths of the sea?

Then, may we not conclude, that universal harmony and love, and Edition: current; Page: [1163] as the necessary consequence of these, universal liberty, shall prevail? Then, may we not confidently hope, that oppression shall be as much abhorred, and as much unknown, as freedom is, at present, in many parts of the globe? That the name of man, of whatever nation, or kindred, or people, or tongue, shall then be the signal of brotherly affection: When the whole human race, uniting as a band of brethren, shall know no other wishes, than to promote their common happiness, and to glorify their common God: When there shall be nothing to hurt nor destroy in all the holy mountain of God—when the desart shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose; and when the kingdoms of this world, shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ?

Imagine not, my fellow citizens, that these are the flights of a vain and disordered fancy. The sacred volume teaches us to comfort one another with these words, and to triumph in the glorious prospect. The Author of truth himself, bids us look forward, with joy and gladness, to—

  • The blest Immanuel’s gentle reign;

—when, from the rising of the sun, to the going down thereof, his name shall have free course and be glorified.

To the introduction of these happy days, it seems as if the present time afforded many hopeful preludes. Can we turn our eyes to the European states and kingdoms—can we behold their convulsive struggles, without considering them as all tending to hasten this heavenly æra? Especially, can we view the interesting situation of our affectionate allies, without indulging the delightful hope, that the sparks, which are there seen rising toward heaven, though in tumultuous confusion, shall soon be the means of kindling a general flame, which shall illuminate the darkest and remotest corners of the earth, and pour upon them the effulgence of tenfold glory?

The splendor of their prospects is, indeed, not altogether unclouded. But, we trust, that every difficulty and disorder will speedily vanish, and give place to harmony, and efficient government. We trust, that He who rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm, will wield their fierce democracy with his mighty arm—hush the rude noise of war in their borders—breathe propitious upon their counsels—and, in the end, crown their exertions with abundant success.

The glorious structure, which this once oppressed people are employed Edition: current; Page: [1164] in erecting, has been assailed by numerous malignant foes. Black, and awfully threatning clouds have hung over it—the rains have descended—the floods have poured forth—the winds have blown—they have all beat violently upon it; but, as if founded upon a rock, it has yet stood. And we hope it will stand. We hope that, bidding calm defiance to the fury of every tempest, it will continue to rise with increasing greatness, until time shall be no more. Cease, then! ye shortsighted sons of ambition, who would oppose this important work; ye who delight in oppression, and who feed on the miseries and debasement of men; cease to imagine, that by your feeble arm, you shall be able to withstand the Mighty One of Israel! Remember, that if this cause be of the Lord, you cannot overcome it; and if, haply, you be found fighting against God, your labors, like those of the unhappy sufferer of old, will but revert upon your own heads.

Let the haughty kings of the earth, then, set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against the work of his hands;—He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh—the Lord will have them in derision. If this wonderful Revolution be, as we trust, a great link in the chain, that is drawing on the reign of universal harmony and peace; if it be occasioned by christian principles, and be designed to pave the way for their complete establishment, however it may appear to be sullied by irreligion and vice,* it is the cause of God, and will at last prevail

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Having thus commented, in a general manner, on some of the leading objects, which presented themselves from the passage of scripture which was chosen, the first emotions which naturally arise, both from the preceding remarks, and this interesting occasion, are those of gratitude and of praise. Here, happily, our thankfulness as patriots, and our thankfulness as christians, perfectly coincide, and are inseparably connected together.

Let us unite, then, in offering our grateful acknowledgments, to the Sovereign Dispenser of all blessings, that, while many nations are covered with the mantle of darkness and superstition; and in consequence of this, are groaning under the yoke of servitude; the Sun of righteousness hath risen upon us, with healing in his wings; and hath taught us, in a political view, to know, and to maintain our proper character. Let us bless his holy name, that, under the influence of this light, we have been led to assert the dignity of human nature—to throw off the chains of oppression—to think and act for ourselves, and to acknowledge no other king than the King of the universe. Let us bless his name, that, under the guidance of the same light, we have been led to frame a constitution, which recognizes the natural and Edition: current; Page: [1166] unalienable rights of men; which renounces all limits to human liberty, but those which necessity and wisdom prescribe; and whose great object is, the general good. O give thanks unto the Lord! for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the oppressor, and delivered from all their destructions. O that men would praise the Lord, for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

Again; if it be a solemn truth, that the prevalence of Christianity, has a natural and immediate tendency to promote political freedom, then, those are the truest and the wisest patriots, who study to encrease its influence in society. Hence it becomes every American citizen to consider this as the great palladium of our liberty, demanding our first and highest care.

The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad. The lines are fallen unto us in pleasant places, yea, we have a goodly heritage. We possess an extensive, noble country. Fertility and beauty vie with each other, in favor of our ease, accommodation, and delight. Every avenue to national importance, and the felicity of individuals, is opened wide. Let it, then, in addition to all these advantages, and to complete its glory, let it be Immanuel’s land. This will refine, and inconceivably appreciate your freedom. This will render you at once the pattern, and the wonder of the world.

To each of you, then, my fellow citizens, on this anniversary of our independence, be the solemn address made! Do you wish to stand fast in that liberty, wherewith the Governor of the universe hath made you free? Do you desire the encreasing prosperity of your country? Do you wish to see the law respected—good order preserved, and universal peace to prevail? Are you convinced, that purity of morals is necessary for these important purposes? Do you believe, that the Christian religion is the firmest basis of morality? Fix its credit, then, by adopting it yourselves, and spread its glory by the lustre of your example! And while you tell to your children, and to your children’s children, the wonderful works of the Lord, and the great deliverance which he hath wrought out for us, teach them to remember the Author of these blesssings, and they will know how to estimate their value. Teach them to acknowledge the God of heaven as their King, and they will despise submission to earthly despots. Teach them to be Christians, and they will ever be free!

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And O, thou exalted Source of liberty! not only grant and secure to us political freedom; but may we all, by the effectual working of thy mighty power, and through the mediation of Christ Jesus, be brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God; that when this world, and all that is therein, shall be burnt up, we may become citizens of a better country, that is an heavenly.

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Enos Hitchcock (1745-1803). A 1767 graduate of Harvard College, Hitchcock was a minister in Beverly, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island. He saw extensive action as chaplain during the Revolution. He was first appointed chaplain in 1776 to serve with the Third Massachusetts Continentals on their way to Crown Point and Ticonderoga. The following year he was at Ticonderoga and Saratoga when, just after the defeat of Burgoyne, captured Tories wearing Indian war paint were driven through the streets. He spent much of 1778 with his brigade at Valley Forge. At West Point the following year, the circumstances were nearly as bad as they had been at Valley Forge. And so it went through the rest of the war.

He had been home in Beverly off and on between campaigns, but finally he resigned his post there in 1780 and moved to the First Congregational Church in Providence, where he remained. His theology moved from Arminian to Unitarian over the years, but in the many disputes over doctrine, he always took a reconciling line; he would, for instance, baptize by immersion those who asked for it. He apparently had wealth, independent of his minister’s salary, perhaps from his wife’s family’s property in Maine. He raised a fine parsonage and lived well. He was a friend of Dr. Ezra Stiles, president of Yale, who conferred an M.A. on him in 1781. He received a D.D. from Brown University in 1788, where he had been a trustee since 1782. He campaigned for the abolition of slavery and, advocating free public education, he warned: “What will be the state of American government, if they are not nurtured by general education, and strengthened by public virtue, let the fate of many fallen republics tell!” (A Discourse on Education [Providence, 1785], p. 10).

Hitchcock was a popular participant in patriotic events, was first chaplain of the Society of the Cincinnati in Rhode Island, and went to Philadelphia in 1787 for the constitutional convention. He campaigned for Rhode Island’s ratification of the Constitution, which he regarded as the plan for a perfect government, while the alternative to federalism was anarchy.

These views can be seen in the Fourth of July, 1793, oration reprinted here, delivered at the Baptist meeting-house. Hitchcock kept extensive diaries during the war, the surviving ones being in the hands of the Rhode Island Historical Society and largely published in their Collections (vol. 7). He published a number of sermons and pamphlets Edition: current; Page: [1171] Edition: current; Page: [1172] on patriotic themes and two large works on domestic matters: Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family (2 vols., 1790); and The Farmer’s Friend, or the History of Mr. Charles Worthy (1793). The former work, dedicated to Martha Washington, addressed the problems of child-rearing (some of it not quite to modern taste, perhaps, such as punishing children by dipping their little heads in ice water).

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The return of this anniversary hath reminded us, my respected fellow-citizens, of an event full of wonders, and pregnant with consequences important, not to this country only, but to mankind. Called again to felicitate you on this memorable day, I feel myself secure in your candour to those sentimental effusions which the occasion may suggest. There is a pleasure in the idea of addressing a free and an enlightened people, on the blessings they enjoy, and on the happiness of their condition. Americans! this day recognizes your emancipation. It is your jubilee. It is the birth-day of your independence, of your national existence! Let it never be forgotten, that, on the fourth day of July, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six, forth issued from the illustrious and patriotic Congress the following magnanimous declaration:

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by authority of the good people of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.”

This declaration was accompanied with the reasons which compelled them to make it, and which were deemed sufficient to justify the measure in the view of the world. It was nobly made at the most eventful period of the war, when your country was bleeding at every pore, without a friend among the nations of the earth. God alone was her friend! The justice of her cause was registered in the high chancery of heaven. The stars fought in their courses for her; and the event justified a step which had so astonished the world.

To retrace the steps which led to the accomplishment of the revolution, and the causes which prepared the way for it, would be to enter into a field of discussion too large for the present occasion. It would be to repeat what has already been done in a thousand forms. Historians have collected and arranged the great mass of materials. Orators have marked, in polished periods, the great outlines of the revolution. Poets have sung its praises, and, stretching forward on the Edition: current; Page: [1174] prophetic wing, the vocal muse hath assigned to it every good of which so great an event can be productive. The subject, however, is not exhausted. Sentimental gleanings still remain to be gathered through the extending field, by those whom you shall annually appoint to celebrate “this memorable event.”* New subjects will be continually arising out of the improving condition of our own country, the progress of society, government and manners, in the world, which will result from the revolution, and from the establishment of our independence.

Our oration now turns to view the advantages of the natural situation, and political freedom, which we, as a people, enjoy.

These are suggested to us by a recognition of the independency of the American Republic. To what purpose could be the possession of the former, without the enjoyment of the latter? In both respects, our lines have fallen in pleasant places; and we have a goodly heritage. What nation on earth can boast of such a territory, in extent and fertility of soil, situation and variety of climate? The situation and extensive territory of the United States are favourable for a great variety of productions, and convenient for commerce. Extending from the thirty-first to the forty-sixth degree of north latitude, and averaging at more than one thousand miles in breadth, they comprehend such a variety of soil and climate, as to be capable of almost every kind of production, either necessary or convenient to man. The prolific soil will reward the cultivator’s labour, and furnish an ample supply for its increasing inhabitants. It is not usual for any of the casualties, whereby the fruits of the earth are at any time cut off, to pervade so extensive a space at the same time. While one part is pinched with drought, or devoured by insects, others have a superabundance to supply their demands. Bounded on the Atlantic ocean Edition: current; Page: [1175] by a vast extent of coast, they enjoy every advantage of foreign and domestic commerce. Intersected by many rivers, at distances favourable for internal navigation, or to supply artificial canals, the inhabitants enjoy an easy transportation for the exuberant growth of their fertile banks.

This soil is distributed in such portions amongst the inhabitants, and holden by such a tenure, as afford the greatest security to the continuation of a free government. “Most free states have studied to find out means of preventing too great an inequality in the distribution of landed property. What tumults were occasioned at Rome, in its best times, by attempts to carry into execution the agrarian law? Among the people of Israel, by direction of heaven, all estates which had been alienated during the course of fifty years, returned to the original owners at the end of that term.” It is beyond a doubt, that the fee simple of the soil generally resting in the cultivators of it, and that general mediocrity of condition which follows from it, are circumstances most favourable to a republican form of government. Virtue and industry, talents and knowledge, will form the principal distinctions; and the motives to these will be increased, while the opportunities for vice are rendered fewer.

In such a state, the hereditary demagogue, and the cringing sycophant, are alike unknown. Protected by laws of their own framing, the people cannot be oppressed. Enjoying an equal government, which has no lucrative sinecures to bestow, there will be no great scope for ambitious intrigue. Such generally is the state of this country, whose inhabitants consist principally of independent and hardy yeomanry, mostly trained to the use of arms, instructed in their rights—reaping and enjoying the fruits of their own industry. Happy the people that are in such a state! all the blessings of secular and political enjoyment lie within their reach, unendangered from the rapacious hand of neighbouring powers, jealous of their growth, envious at their prosperity, and avaricious of their spoils. It is among the principal advantages of our situation, that we are not surrounded by such petulant and encroaching neighbours. Of the evil of such a situation, we may form some idea from what we suffer by the vicinity of the savage tribes.

From the natural situation of this country, and the peculiar circumstances of its inhabitants, arise many political advantages; for the enjoyment Edition: current; Page: [1176] of which we are indebted to the revolution. The features of our policy have a strong resemblance to the magnificent and well-proportioned features of our country. No longer do we subscribe to the absurd doctrine of the divine right of kings, no longer bow our necks to the galling yoke of foreign legislation. Independent of these servilities, we enjoy the divine right of governing ourselves. In the exercise of this right, we have seen a complete political revolution, unawed by surrounding enemies, and uninfluenced by their intrigues. We have seen a constitution of civil government formed under the influence of reason and philanthropy, which meets the approving voice of the ablest politicians. Much has been said of its excellence by the greatest civilians. It is granted on all hands, [“]that the safety of the nation is the object of all government; and that the will of the people is the supreme law in all republican governments. But the arbitrary power of the many will produce anarchy, as that of an individual does despotism. It is necessary, therefore, that the social will be collected, and concentrated in one form or constitution of government; no state having yet appeared, where the people at once govern themselves without representation. This constitution, like the combination of organs that form the constitution of the human body, must contain within itself sufficient force and energy to carry on the necessary functions.” “The head dictates the laws, and the other members execute. It is essential that the head, which represents the legislative and judicial powers, should be calm and deliberate in its decrees; and that the arm, representing the executive, should have promptitude and force.”

Every good government must exist somewhere between absolute despotism, and absolute democracy. In either of these extremes, neither liberty nor safety can be enjoyed. It will follow, that a constitution wherein the three powers, legislative, executive and judicial, are most perfectly combined for the prosperity of the people, is the best. Indeed, the great Montesquieu has made it appear, that these three powers exist, in some degree, in every form of government, even the most absolute. As these powers display their cooperative influence, in a greater or less degree, in the governmental machine, they have received their name or stile. The name of aristocracy is given to the government of those states, where a permanent senate governs all, without ever consulting the people. “Such is Venice, Edition: current; Page: [1177] which is also called a republic; it is a pure aristocracy in this sense, that the three powers are in the hands of the nobles. That state, in which the will of an individual is most frequently a law, and decides on the life or death of the subject, is called a despotic state. Such is the Turkish empire. But it is not true, that the sultan is absolute master; his power finds limits at every step he advances, and he is obliged to respect them. This empire, then, is between aristocracy and despotism; but inclines towards the latter. The state in which the will of an individual is sometimes absolute, but where co-legislative bodies always join in the exercise of power, is called a monarchy. This species of government is between despotism and aristocracy, but inclines towards the latter. The state where the people choose their magistrates for a fixed period, and often assemble to exercise the sovereignty, is a democracy, and is called a republic; such were Athens and Rome, and such are the United States of America.”

Amidst the various shades between the primitive colours in which different governments have been cast, these United States have wisely cast their’s in that mild form which is most congenial to the rights of man, and the enjoyment of equal liberty—that liberty, which to independence unites security—which to the most ample elective powers, unites strength and energy in government. You will permit me here to felicitate you on the re-election of two of the first political characters in the world, to the two first offices in the American Republic; and on the honour your electors have done themselves by their unanimity in the election.

The present flourishing condition of these states, affords the best comment on the excellence of our constitution. All useful theories are practicable. The most perfect model of government that imagination can form will be useless, if the state of mankind renders it impracticable. Already has experience taught us, that our government is fraught with many blessings. The same internal causes that led to independence, and national existence, have guided the people of these states to a wise and deliberate choice of persons, to whom the powers of government might safely be entrusted. To the wisdom of their elections, and to the judicious appointment of officers to the several departments of state, are they to ascribe their present flourishing condition. Under the happy influence of their wisdom, fidelity and industry, we see our credit restored abroad, and established at home—our Edition: current; Page: [1178] deranged finances reduced to system, and made productive beyond the calculations of the most sanguine. Although the revenue laws may, in some respects, operate unequally at present, yet the object of the government being the distribution of equal justice, such alterations and reforms will doubtless take place, as to produce all that equality which the nature of the case will admit. Who does not see reason to rejoice in the provision making for the current of justice to run pure through the Union, who but the dishonest and fraudulent debtor, or the criminal offender? The dignity, candour and impartiality, displayed from the judicial bench, augur well to the rights of individuals, and to the peace of society.

Here property is rendered secure, by the equality of law to all; and every man, being master of the fruits of his own labour, enjoys the right of property—no arbitrary imposition of taxes or of tythes, no lordly exactions of rents, chill the heart of industry, nor repress the cultivator’s exertions—no mercantile corporations, with exclusive rights, damp the ardent spirit of enterprize. Hence we see a trackless wilderness, in the short space of one hundred and seventy years, converted into a fruitful field; and, in the space of ten years, we see trade and commerce, no longer limited by parliamentary restrictions, nor distressed by war, extending to all parts of the globe, from the straits of Magellan to the inhospitable regions of Kamskatka. Hence also we see the American genius springing forward in useful arts, projecting great and astonishing enterprizes, tearing down mountains and filling up vallies,* and making efforts unknown in those countries where despotism renders every thing precarious, and where a tyrant reaps what slaves have sown.

A polite and ingenious European traveller (Dr. Moore), tells us, “The chilling effects of despotic oppression, or the benign influence of freedom and commerce, strike the eye of the most careless traveller.” And, speaking of the disorders incident to free governments, says, “The temporary and partial disorders which are the consequence Edition: current; Page: [1179] of public freedom, have been greatly exaggerated by some people, and represented as more than an equivalent to all the advantages resulting from a free government. But if such persons had opportunities of observing the nature of those evils which spring up in absolute governments, they would soon be convinced of their error. The greatest evil that can arise from the licentiousness which accompanies civil liberty, is, that people may rashly take a dislike to liberty herself, from the teasing impertinence and absurdity of some of her real or affected well-wishers; as a man might become less fond of his best friend, if he found him always attended by a snappish cur, which without provocation was always growling and barking.

“What are the disorders of a free government, compared to the gloomy regularity produced by despotism? in which men are obliged to the most painful circumspection in all their actions; are afraid to speak their sentiments on the most common occurrences; suspicious of cherishing government spies in their household servants, distrustful of their own relations and most intimate companions; and at all times exposed to the oppression of men in power, and to the insolence of their favourites. No confusion, in my mind, can be more terrible than the stern disciplined regularity and vaunted police of arbitrary governments, where every heart is depressed by fear, where mankind dare not assume their natural character, where the free spirit must crouch to the slave in office, where genius must repress her effusions, or, like the Egyptian worshippers, offer them in sacrifice to the calves of power; and where the human mind, always in shackles, shrinks from every generous effort.”

There is a point of depression, as well as exaltation, from which human affairs naturally return in a contrary direction, and beyond which they seldom pass, either in their decline or advancement. The present is a crisis, in human affairs, that teems with great and interesting events. Long, long has the old world been sunk in ignorance, superstition and bondage. But the period of her emancipation appears to be rapidly approaching. What a mighty combination of events is now conspiring to the general spread of knowledge and freedom! Judging from what we have seen and experienced, we may conclude that the measures now taken to crush the rights of mankind, and to overturn the altar of freedom, will be productive of the contrary effect. Indeed a dark cloud at present vails the fair countenance of liberty Edition: current; Page: [1180] in France. Inexperienced in the science of a free government, and unprepared for the enjoyment of it by a previous course of education, of intellectual improvement, and moral discipline, they have tarnished their glory by excesses; and, in the paroxysms of their zeal, have carried excess to outrage.

It is the misfortune of men struggling for liberty, that they are apt to be carried too far, as we have been taught by experience. The more the human mind hath been depressed, the greater will be its extravagancies, when it bursts forth from the shackles of tyranny into the full light of freedom. Like the vibrating pendulum, it flies from one extreme to another; and, like that, must have time to regulate itself. Shall we reject the cause of human liberty, because anarchy attends the first efforts of a people to gain it, or because ferocity marks some of their steps towards it? Or shall our confidence in its progress be overthrown, because threatened by hostile confederacies? As Americans, we must either renounce that which is our boast and glory, or warmly wish success to the great principles of the French revolution—principles founded on the equal liberty of all men, and the empire of the laws. As rational beings, and as Christians, we should recollect, that from partial evil, it is the glory of the Supreme Ruler to bring forth general good; and that, as inspiration expresseth it, “He makes the wrath of man to praise him; but the remainder of wrath will he restrain.”

The present war in Europe has a further object than the subjugation of France. It is a war of kings and despots, against the dearest rights and the most invaluable privileges of mankind. Should the combined powers succeed against France, and the re-establishment of monarchy there exist among possible events, what security have we, that the same attempt will not be made to restore monarchy in this country? Has not united America led the way? And may she not boast, with an honest pride, of the influence of her example in exciting the attention of many nations to their natural and civil rights? With what freedom of thought—with what enlightened and ardent philanthropy, has she inspired many of the nations of Europe! What would be her condition, if subjugated by the confederates against freedom, we may learn from the state of Poland, lately made free by a voluntary compact with its king; but now subdued by the ferocious power of the north, divided among her jealous neighbours, and the Edition: current; Page: [1181] people sold with the soil, like the animals that graze upon it. Let the generous feelings of human nature rise indignant at the abhorrent idea of part of itself being thus degraded. Whatever may be the fate of France in the present contest, the great principles of the revolution will eventually find advocates in every part of the world, even among those who are now most inveterate against the conduct of the French. The doctrines of hereditary powers—of the divine right of kings—of their inviolability, and incapacity to do wrong, are fast declining, and will soon be exploded. They are solecisms of the same nature with their divine right to do wrong; and will, in future, more enlightened and liberal days, be read of with astonishment.

How often doth a hand unobserved shift the scene of the world! The calmest and stillest hour precedes the whirlwind; and it hath thundered in the serenest sky. The monarch hath drawn the chariot of state, in which he had been wont to ride in triumph; or been dragged to a scaffold, by the misguided zeal of his late admirers; and the greatest who ever awed the world, have moralized at the turn of the wheel. Such, O Louis, has been thy untimely fate! At thy urn, let pitying nature drop a sympathetic tear! Cease, thou sanguinary demon, any longer to support thy bloody standard! May the milder genius of true liberty, and more enlightened policy, speedily pervade the councils, and bless the people of France!

Our attention now returns with delight to contemplate that portion of religious and scientific freedom which our country enjoys. To the early care of our ancestors to establish literary, and encourage religious institutions, are we much indebted for the accomplishment of the late revolution, which shows us the vast importance of paying great attention to the rising sons and daughters of America, by giving them an enlightened and a virtuous education. Here the human mind, free as the air, may exert all its powers towards the various objects laid before it, and expand its faculties to an extent hitherto unknown. It has been the policy of all monarchical governments, and of some religious institutions, to keep the people in ignorance, the more easily to dazzle them into obedience by external marks of greatness, and of native superiority. Knowledge and true religion go hand in hand. When the former is obscured, the latter is mutilated, and enveloped in the shades of superstition and bigotry. And whenever the civil power has undertaken to judge and decide concerning truth Edition: current; Page: [1182] and error, to oppose the one, while it protected the other, it has invariably supported bigotry, superstition and nonsense.

“Anaxagoras was tried and condemned in Greece, for teaching that the sun and stars were not deities, but masses of corruptible matter. Accusations of a like nature contributed to the death of Socrates. The threats of bigotry, and the fear of persecution, prevented Copernicus from publishing, during his life time, his discovery of the true system of the world. Galileo was obliged to renounce the doctrine of the motion of the earth, and suffered a year’s imprisonment for having asserted it.” Many other instances of a similar nature, and much later date, might be mentioned; the tendency of which has been to cramp the human powers, to destroy in some measure the end of education, by directing the current of thought into a narrow channel. Hence the doctrine of the revolution of the earth round the sun, would have been as great “a stumbling-block to the prejudiced Jews, and as apparent foolishness to the learned Greeks, as that of a crucified Jesus to be the Saviour of the world.”

By the constitution of the United States, no man is abridged of the liberty of enquiry—no religious test is required—no bait is thrown out by government to encourage hypocrisy, or exclude the honest and deserving. In this respect it possesses a liberality unknown to any people before. It must give pleasure to every generous mind, to hear “the children of the stock of Abraham” thus addressing our beloved president: “Deprived as we have heretofore been of the invaluable rights of citizens, we now (with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty Disposer of all events) behold a government erected on the majesty of the people—a government which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance, but generously affording to all liberty of conscience, and immunities of citizenship—deeming every one, of whatever nation, tongue or language, equal parts of the governmental machine. This so ample and extensive federal union, whose basis is philanthropy, mutual confidence, and public virtue, we cannot but acknowledge to be the work of the great God, who ruleth in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.”*

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In this view of the subject, may we not consider these as the dawn of brighter days, of a brighter sun than ever blessed the world before; as a commencement of the golden age, that introduces a better system of religion than most of those which have been hitherto professed in the world; a religion that enforces moral obligations, not a religion that relaxes and evades them; a religion of peace and charity, not of strife and party rage? The importance of religion to the peace and order of society, is unspeakably great. Every thing is replaced and established by religion. It surrounds the whole system of morality, resembling that universal force of physical nature, which retains the planets in their order, and subjects them to a regular revolution. But as to all decent modes and outward expressions of it, the rights of conscience remain untouched. Here all religious opinions are equally harmless, and render men who hold different opinions equally good subjects, because there are no laws to oppose them, no force to compel them. The use of arms, and the military art, of which we have this day so agreeable and elegant a specimen, are directed to a very different object, the defence of freedom, and as a bulwark of the state.

May we ever show ourselves worthy of the blessings we enjoy, and never tarnish the bright lustre of this day, by any unbecoming excesses. Americans! think of the many privileges which distinguish your condition. Be grateful for your lot; and let your virtue secure what your valour, under God, hath obtained; and transmit to latest posterity the glorious inheritance. May the political edifice erected on the theatre of this new world, afford a practical lesson of liberty to mankind, and become in an eminent degree the model of that glorious temple of universal liberty which is about to be established over the civilized world.

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jonathan edwards, jr. the necessity of the belief of christianity fpage="1185" lpage="1216"


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Jonathan Edwards, Jr. (1745-1801). The son and namesake of one of the great American minds of the eighteenth century (Jonathan Edwards the elder died in 1758), Edwards was himself an outstanding personality. He was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, and at the age of six went with his family to live with the Mohican Indians for seven years while his father did missionary work. The family then moved in early 1758 to Princeton, New Jersey. A short time afterward, young Jonathan was orphaned by the death of his father and then of his mother, Sarah Pierpont Edwards.

Edwards was graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1765. He had experienced a powerful conversion during his college days and thereafter went to Bethlehem, Connecticut, to study theology with his father’s friend Joseph Bellamy. In 1769 he became pastor of the White Haven Church in New Haven, where he remained until 1795, when he was dismissed because of doctrinal disputes and the decline of the church. After serving briefly as pastor of the church in Colebrook, he was elected president of Union College in Schenectady, New York. He died within two years. This was reminiscent of his father’s fate, even more so when it is noted that both father and son chose to preach, on the first Sunday of their final years, on the same text, “This year thou shalt die” (Jeremiah 28:16).

While lacking the imagination and originality of his father, the younger Edwards had a powerful mind and wrote important works advancing a “governmental” theory of the Atonement, a defense of his father’s theory of the will, and an elaborate study of the Mohican language (published in 1788). He was active in charitable and missionary endeavors and vigorously opposed slavery and the slave trade. His writings are collected in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, D.D., . . . with a Memoir of His Life (2 vol., 1842).

The sermon reprinted here was given on the anniversary of the election in Hartford on May 8, 1794.

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Yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord.

Psalm CXLIV. 15.

In this passage of sacred scripture, that people is pronounced happy, whose God is the Lord. But what is the meaning of the expression, “whose God is the Lord?” or when may it be truly said, that the God of any people is the Lord? The answer is, when they believe, worship and obey the Lord or Jehovah, as the only true God, and that according to his revealed will. The Lord was the God of the Israelites, when they complied with the dispensation, under which they lived; and he is our God, when we cordially believe and comply with the gospel. If we do so, the text pronounces us happy; and it plainly implies, that we cannot be happy on any condition short of this.

Therefore the subject, which I beg leave to propose from our text for present consideration, is this, The necessity of a belief of christianity by the citizens of this state, in order to our public and political prosperity. This proposition is plainly implied in the text. For if that people only be happy or prosperous, whose God is the Lord; and if to believe and comply with christianity be implied in having the Lord for our God; it follows, that the belief of christianity by the citizens of this state, is necessary to our political prosperity.

Political prosperity requires the general practice of a strict morality. But this cannot be so well secured by any other means, as by a belief of christianity. Motives of a religious kind appear to be necessary to restrain men from vice and immorality. Civil pains and penalities alone are by no means sufficient to this end; nor are civil honours and rewards sufficient encouragements to the practice of virtue in general. The civil magistrate does not pretend to reward virtue in general according to its moral excellency. He does indeed reward some particular acts of virtue, which are highly beneficial to the public. But the many virtues of private life pass without any other reward from him, than the bare protection, which is afforded in common to the persons who practise those virtues, and to all who are free from gross crimes.

Nor does the magistrate pretend to punish vice in general. He does Edition: current; Page: [1190] undertake to punish those gross vices, which consist in the violations of the perfect rights of men, and in those cases only, in which the violations are both manifest and are manifestly proved before a proper tribunal. But all violations of even these rights which are perpetrated in private, or which, though perpetrated publicly, are not legally proved, pass entirely free from civil pains and penalties. The same is true of all violations of the imperfect rights, as they are called, which are violated by ingratitude, selfishness, neglect of kind offices, &c. Yet these vices are in their consequences, often as hurtful to the public good, as injustice, fraud or robbery; and indeed the former are the source of the latter. Now to restrain from vices of this latter description, from all vices practised in private, and from vice in general, nothing is so useful as a full belief of a final judgment, and of a subsequent state of rewards and punishments, in which all sin not renounced by sincere repentance, shall be punished, and every man shall receive according to that which he does in the body, whether it be good or evil.

Let us suppose a citizen restrained from vice by the fear of civil penalties only. Such a person will feel himself under no obligation to pay either public or private debts, unless he expects legal judgment and execution; and under no obligation to speak the truth, unless he fears a prosecution for fraud or defamation. He will feel himself at liberty to live in idleness, profusion, intemperance and lust, and to take every advantage consistent with law, to defraud and oppress his fellow citizens. He will requite no kind offices, as he has no motive to gratitude. He will have no motive to the greater part of his duty to his own children, and in a thousand instances may neglect them, when he is bound by the strictest moral obligation, to assist and do them good. He may indulge himself in passion and ill nature, in contention and violence, so far as not to expose himself to the law; and of course will take no pains to preserve peace among his neighbours; but will rather, as his humour happens to be, foment by words and actions, animosities, law-suits and contentions in every form. Ever complaining under the mildest and justest government, he will in numberless ways oppose measures, and especially expences, subservient and necessary to the public good; and will excite and spread discontent among others. Now is this a good citizen? What if the Edition: current; Page: [1191] whole state consisted of such citizens? Could it enjoy political prosperity?

The best and perhaps the only remedy for such diseases, is a full belief of the divine universal providence, of the accountableness of all men to God for all their conduct, and of a future equal retribution.

Some religion then, and some belief of a future state is necessary to our political prosperity. But what religion shall we adopt? and what system concerning a future state is most useful to the state? It is not possible to introduce and give a general spread through the state, to Mahometanism or paganism; and it would be a work of time and of great difficulty, to lead the citizens in general into the belief of deism or what is called the philosophical religion. Therefore we seem necessitated to have recourse to christianity: and this is most excellently adapted to the ends of restraining men from vice and promoting that general practice of strict morality, which is so essential to the political prosperity of any people. It is adapted to these ends by its precepts; by the moral character of the author of those precepts; by his absolute supremacy and sovereignty; by the motives of reward and punishment with which those precepts are enforced; by the facts which it relates, and by the examples which it exhibits. It is enforced not by the bare authority of our feeble reason, but by the authority of our creator, our judge, and our all-perfect God. It depends not on the obscure investigations, subtil refinements and uncertain conclusions of human intellect; but on the omniscience, the veracity, the justice, the goodness and the will of God: And thus it is excellently adapted to the principles and feelings which are common to human nature, and which exist in the weakest and most ignorant, as well as the most intelligent and learned. A man who cannot follow the shortest and most easy chain of reasoning on the nature of things and the tendency of human actions, and who will not from such reasoning feel his obligation to virtue in general or to particular virtues, will at once feel the force of the positive and authoritative declarations and requisitions of the Almighty: and where is the man, learned or unlearned, of weak or strong powers, who does not see and feel the difference between the advice and directions of some learned and acute philosopher, and thus saith the Lord? Above all, the motives arising from the doctrines of the final judgment and a future state, lay an inconceivably greater Edition: current; Page: [1192] restraint on the depravity of human nature, than any thing that is or can be suggested by the philosophical religion.

Let us compare this religion with christianity in a few particulars, which immediately relate to our present subject.

It is a maxim of infidelity to follow nature. Now to follow her, is to follow all the appetites and passions of which we are naturally the subjects; and this will lead to all kinds of vice. But it is a maxim of christianity, to follow the divine law, the precepts of the gospel and the example of Christ: and whether these lead to vice or virtue, I need not inform you.

Another maxim of infidelity is, that man was made for his own happiness; that is, that every man was made for his own individual happiness. This then is to be the supreme object of every man; and this object is to be pursued, as infidels themselves teach, by gratifying his natural appetites and passions, which brings us just where we were before, to all vice and wickedness: And if an infidel deny his appetites and passions, he must be governed by other motives than any which his system of morality suggests. But christianity teaches, that we were created for an end, which so far as we pursue, we cannot fail of sincere piety and strict morality.

Infidels are divided into two classes, those who deny a future state of existence, and those who allow such a state. The former deny all moral government of God, and that we are at all accountable to him; and some of the most noted among them deny any evidence of his moral perfections. Now it is manifest, that according to this system mankind can be under no restraint from vice, by the consideration of a future state of rewards and punishments, or by the consideration of their accountableness to God, or of his commands or prohibitions. Nor does this system admit of any motives derived from these sources, to the practice of virtue. Yet these motives, with respect to mankind in the gross, are the most powerful. The authors and abettors of this system seem to rely on a sense of honour, as the great motive to virtue and restraint from vice. And what is this sense of honour? If it be a sense of shame in doing wrong, and a sense of the honourableness of doing right, it is a mere sense or knowledge of right and wrong; and this so far as it is founded on truth, is undoubtedly a proper rule of conduct, and a man who is disposed to virtue, will practise according to this rule. But how are men in general, without Edition: current; Page: [1193] the aid of revelation, to attain, in all cases, to the knowledge of right and wrong, of virtue and vice? It is manifest by abundant experience both antient and modern, that mere human reason is insufficient for this.

If by this sense of honour be meant, as I imagine is generally meant, a sense of our own supposed personal dignity, a pride naturally arising from this sense, and a disposition to resent and revenge every thing which is grating to our pride; this in many cases is so far from a motive to virtue and restraint from vice, that it is itself a vice. Let this sense of honour be ever so well limited and explained, it cannot be a motive to virtue and a restraint from vice to all men; because it does not reach and cannot influence all men. How many are there in every nation and country, who have very little sense of their own dignity, and very little elevation of soul in a consciousness of it? How many are there, who in a prospect of gain, would not scruple to betray their friends, to steal their neighbours property or to betray their country?

It is manifest therefore, that this philosophical religion, could it be generally introduced and established among us, would be a very great political evil, as it would weaken and even annihilate those motives to virtue and restraints from vice, which are most powerful on the minds of men in general.

Besides: this system so far as it denies the evidence of the moral perfections of God, not only cuts off the motives to virtue, drawn from a future state and from those divine perfections; but even suggests motives to vice. If it be a matter of uncertainty, whether God be a friend to virtue or a friend to vice, it may be, that we shall please him most by an unrestrained indulgence of vice, and by the practice of virtue shall provoke his malice and vengeance. Nay, if it be a matter of uncertainty, whether the deity be a benevolent or malicious being, we can have no certainty, but that he will give us an existence in a future state, on purpose to gratify his malevolence in our everlasting torment. And to be consistent, the advocates for the system now under consideration should not say a word against the christian doctrine of endless punishment, on the ground of its supposed injustice or opposition to grace and mercy; because they acknowledge, that they know not, that God is just, gracious or merciful.

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Thus this scheme, which was invented to avoid the fears of future punishment, defeats itself; and while it attempts to deliver us from a just punishment, leaves us exposed to any punishment ever so unjust, cruel and malicious.

As to that kind of infidelity, which allows the divine moral perfections and a future state of rewards and punishments; though this is more plausible than the former; yet the motives to virtue and restraints from vice, which it affords, are not to be compared with those of the gospel. Agreeably to the gospel all men are to be rewarded according to their works done in the body, whether they be good or evil. Some are to be beaten with few stripes, some with many stripes, according to their several aggravations of guilt. But in the future punishment which infidels admit, there is nothing vindictive, nothing therefore which is intended to support law and government. The only punishment which they admit, is that which is designed for the good of the person punished;* and therefore as soon as the person punished repents, he is released. Now it is manifest on the slightest reflection, that the motive to avoid sin and vice on this plan, is exceedingly diminished from what it is on the plan of the gospel. On the plan of the gospel the motive is endless misery, proportioned in degree to the demerit of the person punished. On the infidel plan it is a merciful chastisement, which is to continue no longer than till the subject shall repent. And as every sinner will naturally flatter himself, that he shall repent as soon as he shall find his punishment to be intolerable; so all the punishment, which on this plan he will expect, is one that shall continue but for a moment, after it shall have become extreme or intolerable. And whether this momentary extreme punishment be an equal restraint on vice, as the endless misery threatened in the gospel, let every man judge. It is plain, that in a comparative view it is as nothing. Therefore as even this, the most plausible scheme of infidelity, cuts the sinews of morality and opens the flood-gates of vice; the prevalence of it in our state would be a very great political evil.

If we take the pains to compare christianity with antient paganism, we shall find, that the former has, even in a political view, the like advantage over the latter, which it has over infidelity. If in the account, Edition: current; Page: [1195] which I shall now give of the pagan religion, some things shall be mentioned, which will be grating to those of the most delicate feelings; I think I shall be entitled to the pardon of my hearers, as otherwise it will be impossible for me to do justice to this important subject.

Paganism, though it taught a future punishment of wicked men of certain descriptions; yet indulged and even encouraged vice in a variety of ways. It taught that there were many gods, some male and some female; some comparatively good, others exceedingly evil; but all and even the chief god, on many occasions acting a most wicked part and indulging the vilest lusts. Some of their female deities were deceased women of most abandoned characters. Jupiter, whom they called the father of gods and men, was himself the son of Saturn who according to some, was king of Crete; according to others, was Ham the son of Noah; according to others, was Adam; but on every hypothesis was a mere man. This man, the antient heathens believed, had a number of children, and was wont to devour them as soon as they were born: but Jupiter was saved by an artifice of his mother. He, grown to maturity, rebelled against his father, who till then was supposed to be the supreme God, drove him from his throne, and seized his authority and dominions. When Jupiter had by these means raised himself to the place of supreme deity, he was wont to transform himself into various visible shapes, to facilitate his designs of criminal intercourse with women here on earth. Now how destructive of the interests of virtue and morality must necessarily have been these ideas of the gods; and especially these ideas of the character and conduct of the supreme god, Jupiter the greatest and the best!

In like manner destructive to morality must have been almost all their other ideas of their gods; as of their animosities and contentions among themselves; of their intrigues and lusts; and the vicious and most abominable practices by which, in many instances, they were worshipped. The goddess Venus was openly worshipped by whoredom;* and the feasts called Saturnalia and Bacchinalia were celebrated by the practice of every lewdness and debauchery. The vices of Edition: current; Page: [1196] drunkenness and whoredom in these cases were accounted, instead of moral evils, the highest acts of virtue and piety.

Now as all these ideas and practices tended to a general depravity of morals; so their effects abundantly appeared in the vicious lives of the heathen world.

I am well aware, that it has been said, that christianity has depraved the morals of mankind; that vice is far more predominant among christians, than ever it was among the antient heathens; and that therefore we may justly conclude, that christianity is less subservient to virtue and a moral life, than paganism. This has been urged as an argument against the divine original and the truth of christianity; and may be urged as an argument against the good policy of encouraging and supporting it in any state. The consideration of this objection then is pertinent and necessary to the discussion of the subject now before us.

In answer to this objection I beg leave to observe in the first place, that if vice were more predominant in christian nations, than it was among the heathens, it would not certainly follow, that this increase of vice is the effect of christianity. Christianity prevails in civilized nations only; and in such nations there is much more opportunity for many vices and much more temptation to them, than among those who are not civilized. Nay, in civilized nations only, is there a possibility of the prevalence of many vices. In proportion as civilization is promoted, the wants of men are increased. Their food, their drink, their apparel and the education of their children, must be more expensive, and more expence is in every respect required to their living in fashion among their neighbours. And in proportion to the increase of their wants, the temptation to covetousness, extortion, oppression, deceit and fraud, is increased. Again, in proportion as civilization is promoted, the means of luxury of every kind are increased, and with the means, the temptations to luxury and luxury itself are increased. No wonder a savage, who wishes for nothing more than what he may take in hunting and fishing, and who has furnished himself with this, does not steal, rob or extort his neighbour’s property; no wonder he attempts not to obtain it by falsehood or fraud. Nor is it any wonder, that living on such a low and scanty diet as he generally does, he is very rarely guilty of a rape, of adultery or other lewdness. Nor ought it to be matter of wonder, that all these vices are far more prevalent Edition: current; Page: [1197] in civilized nations, than among barbarians. But the prevalence of these vices in such nations, is not owing to christianity, but to civilization and its usual attendants. They were at least as prevalent among the antient Greeks and Romans, as they are among us. Persecution does not usually obtain among [the] heathen, because either they have no religion themselves to instigate them to persecution; or there is no religion different from their own, to be the object of their persecution; or if there be a different religion, it makes no opposition to that which they have chosen, and therefore their religious zeal is not excited against it.

This affords an answer to an objection to christianity much insisted on by some, that the heathens do not persecute; but that christians do most virulently persecute even one another; and therefore that christianity makes men worse instead of better. The answer to this objection is, that the different religious sentiments and forms of worship among the antient heathens did not in general oppose each other. They rather justified each other, as the heathens maintained an intercommunity of gods and religions. Though every nation had its own gods and religion; yet whenever the individuals went into another nation, they joined in the worship of the gods and in the observance of the rites of the nation in which they then were. Therefore there was no opportunity for persecution. But the nature of christianity is very different. It condemns and opposes all other religions as false and ruinous. Therefore as it touches the pride of those whom it condemns, it provokes opposition and the persecution of itself, merely because it tells the truth. And the professors of christianity too, by a misguided zeal, have been often led into the spirit and practice of persecution.

Now this persecution of christianity by those of other religions, is not the effect of christianity, but of opposition to it; and the persecuting spirit which has appeared in some christians, is not the effect of christianity, but of the abuse and perversion of it; and for neither of these is christianity itself answerable. The best institution in the world may be opposed and persecuted; and the best institution in the world be abused and perverted. But christianity never gave any just occasion for either the persecution or perversion of itself.

Besides, the charge of persecution may justly be retorted. For no sooner did christianity make its appearance in the world, than it was Edition: current; Page: [1198] violently opposed and virulently persecuted, by those very heathens, who in the objection now before us are said not to have been guilty of persecution. And as long as they had the power in their hands, this opposition was continued or repeated, under various Roman emperors, for ten successive and bloody persecutions, in which thousands and hundreds of thousands were martyred in various ways, the most malicious and cruel.

Nay, the heathens showed a disposition to persecute not only christians, but one another, whenever there was opportunity. No sooner did Socrates oppose the religion and polytheism of his countrymen, than they began a persecution of him, which ended in his death. And Cambyses, the Persian monarch, in contempt of the Egyptian god Apis, not only stabbed him with his dagger, but ordered the priests of Apis to be severely whipped, and all the inhabitants of Memphis to be slain, who should be found rejoicing on the occasion of the appearance of that god.* These things demonstrate, that the ancient heathens did possess an high degree of the spirit of persecution, and not only toward the christians, but toward one another. The like spirit hath been manifested by heathens of modern times. Passing other instances, I shall mention one which took place in our own country. By the exertions of our ancestors, the first European settlers of this country, a considerable number of the aborigines were converted to the christian faith. The pagan Indians were displeased with this, banished from their society all the converts, and when they could do it with safety, put them to death, and would have massacred them all, had they not been restrained by the fear of our ancestors.

The facts concerning Socrates and Cambyses, furnish an answer to that part of the objection under consideration, which urges that christians persecute not only heathens, but one another; whereas heathens did not persecute one another. It appears by the facts just mentioned, that heathens have persecuted one another. Besides, the same reason is to be assigned for christians persecuting one another, as for the heathens persecuting christians. The protestants say, that the religion of the papists is fundamentally wrong; on the other hand, the papists Edition: current; Page: [1199] assert the same concerning the protestants. Thus by a mutual renunciation, condemnation and excommunication of each other, the false zeal of these and other different sects among christians is kindled into persecution, on the same grounds on which persecution is begun and carried on, between christians and heathens. But by reason of the forementioned intercommunity of gods and religions among the antient heathens, these grounds of persecution did not exist among them in general, though in some cases they did both exist and produce their usual fruits.

Let us now more directly attend to the charge brought against christianity, that vice is more prevalent among christians, than it was among the antient heathens.

Christians indeed have no virtue to be the ground of boasting; on the other hand they have great reason to be ashamed and humbled on account of their vices and their depravity of manners. Still I maintain, that open vice is not so prevalent in christian nations, as it was among the antient heathens. Let us compare those antient heathens, of whom we know the most and who were the most improved and polite, with the christians of whom we know the most; the antient Greeks and Romans with the citizens of the United States.

Here it is to be observed, that we labour under great disadvantage. We know our own country and its predominant vices, both public and private. In order to this we need but open our eyes and look around us. We have not the same advantage to know the antients. We are entirely dependent on history for information concerning them and their vices; and this generally relates the public transactions of nations only, as their wars and treaties, their laws and public judgments; but is mostly silent concerning the morals and private lives of individuals or of the people considered collectively; and so far as we are ignorant of the antients we have no right to charge them with vice. However, with all this disadvantage, I fear not to proceed to the comparison.

Let us then institute the comparison with respect to the principal moral virtues, as temperance, chastity, truth, justice and humanity.

1. As to temperance; though this was reckoned among the virtues by the pagan moral writers, yet it is plain from their writers in general, that drunkenness was exceedingly common among them, and among all ranks, among magistrates, philosophers and priests, as well Edition: current; Page: [1200] as others. Their priests in some of their religious feasts were always intoxicated. Even Cato, though a Stoic philosopher, one of their strictest moralists and a principal magistrate, was remarkably addicted to this vice. So was Zeno, the founder of the sect of the Stoics; and Chrysippus, another Stoic philosopher died in consequence of excessive drinking at a sacrifice.* The character of their principal magistrates, priests and philosophers, does not appear to have suffered much, if at all, by this vice. It must therefore have been considered by the people, as a very venial fault, if any at all. Indeed this is evident by all their writers. But how it is esteemed among us, and what would be the effect of it on the reputation of our principal magistrates and divines, I need not inform you.

2. As to chastity, it is manifest from the whole current of pagan writers, that they considered fornication as no crime, and therefore ran into it without reserve. Not only is this observable of Homer’s heroes, but even the modest Virgil’s pious Aeneas, who was meant to be a perfect character, had an amour with Dido, without the least shame or sense of indecency. Simple fornication was not only commonly practised without restraint; but was allowed by all their philosophers, and was positively encouraged by some of them. Many of the customs of the Greeks and Romans promoted lewdness. The manner of the appearance of women in some of their public exercises, was such as directly tended to that vice; and the ideas of the lawfulness and expediency of a community of wives so far prevailed and had such an influence on practice, as not only implied the violation of chastity, but had a most baleful general tendency with respect to that virtue. Though it is hardly credible, yet unnatural vices had too Edition: current; Page: [1201] much the sanction of some legislators and philosophers, and were countenanced by many of them. Xenophon informs us, that the sin of Sodom was encouraged by the public laws of several of the states of Greece. It was more especially so among the Cretans, in order to prevent too great an increase of the people. Solon, one of the seven wise men of Greece, and the celebrated law-giver of Athens, forbad this practice to slaves, which necessarily conveys the idea of his thinking it fit for free men only. According to Cicero, the Greek philosophers not only generally practised, but even gloried in this vice: And Plutarch informs us, that many parents would not suffer their children to keep the company of those philosophers, who pretended to be fond of them. Diogenes was remarkable for indulging himself in the most abominable practices openly, and without a sense of shame; affecting, according to the maxim of the Cynics, to live according to nature.* These unnatural vices were increased in a most astonishing manner, about the time of the promulgation of christianity. Seneca says, that in his time they were practised [“]openly and without shame at Rome.” These accounts given by heathen writers, fully justify the charges thrown out on this head against the heathens, by the writers of the New Testament, especially by the apostle Paul, in his first chapter to the Romans: Though to christians the inspired writers need no authority, but do of themselves sufficiently prove the amazing depravity of the heathen world in this respect.

3. Truth is a moral virtue, the obligation and necessity of which are perhaps as evident as those of any virtue whatever. Yet the Stoic philosophers taught that lying was lawful, whenever it was profitable; and Plato allowed, that a man may lie, who knows how to do it at a proper time.

4. Let us inquire how far justice was maintained and practised among the antients. I now mean justice in matters of property. For that kind of justice which is opposed to oppression and cruelty, will Edition: current; Page: [1202] come into view, when we shall consider the humanity of the antients. It is well known to have been a maxim at Sparta, that probity and every thing else was to be sacrificed to the good of the state. The Spartans encouraged their children to steal, but punished those who were taken in the fact, as not being dextrous in the business.

We may judge of the state of Greece, with respect to the kind of justice of which we are now speaking, from that passage in a dialogue of Xenophon—in which he humourously shows the advantages of poverty and the inconveniencies of riches; and by what Tacitus says, that the temples were full of debtors and criminals, as churches and monasteries used formerly to be in popish countries. Rome and the neighbourhood of it, in the most interesting period of its history, viz. in the time of Cicero, abounded with robbers. Sallust says, that Cataline’s army was much augmented by the accession of highwaymen about Rome. Cicero observed, that had Milo killed Clodius by night, it might have been imagined, that he had been killed by highwaymen, and that the frequency of such accidents would have favoured the supposition, though he had with him thirty slaves completely armed and accustomed to blood and danger. By the law of the twelve tables, possession for two years formed a prescription for land, and of one year for moveables; an evident mark of frequent violences, when such a law was necessary to secure a title to property.*

How different our situation is from this, and how much more secure our persons and property are, I need not mention in this auditory.

5. We proceed now to inquire how far the antient heathens practised the duties of humanity, and how far they violated those duties by outrage, oppression and cruelty. The Stoics condemned all compassion. No wonder then that they imbibed and practised inhumanity. Some philosophers, particularly Democritus, recommended revenge; and Plato owns that forgiveness of injuries was contrary to the general doctrine of the philosophers. These ideas seem perfectly to coincide with those among the moderns, who are the great advocates for a sense of honour. And how far these ideas are consistent with scripture, with reason or with humanity, I leave you to judge.

It was common with the Romans to make war on other nations for the end of enlarging their own dominions, and aggrandizing their empire. Generally they had no better motive to their wars than this. But Edition: current; Page: [1203] what is such a war, but a complication of downright robbery, cruelty and murder? They practised equal injustice in the manner in which they carried on their wars. They enslaved their captives or put them to death in cold blood, as they pleased. Their triumphs were most oppressive and cruel. The conquered kings and generals, loaded with chains, were driven into the city, and to the capitol before their conquerors, and were followed by mimicks and buffoons, who insulted over their misfortunes. When they arrived at the forum, they were led back to prison and there strangled; and this under the pretence of taking full revenge of their enemies. What better is this, than the treatment which our savage Indians give their captives?

The treatment which they gave those captives whose lives they spared, was correspondent to this cruelty toward those whom they put to death. As has been observed, they absolutely enslaved them; and by law, slaves were considered not as men, but as mere things, the mere property of their masters, and were treated, punished, and put to death at any time and in any manner, as their masters pleased, whether by beating, starving, torture, or otherwise. “The Spartans having conquered a neighbouring nation, the Helots, enslaved them, frequently butchered them in cold blood, and applauded their youths, when they killed them by surprise.” “The Romans were not ashamed to suffer their old and useless slaves, when worn out in their service, to starve on an island in the Tyber, as was their common practice. Vidius Pollio used to throw his slaves, who had disobliged him, into his fish ponds, to be preyed upon by his mullets.”*

Though to our shame, to the shame of humanity and the scandal of christianity, a slavery and a treatment of slaves similar to what existed among the Romans, exist and are tolerated in some parts of America; yet this scandal cannot be thrown on christendom in general. Such a slavery did indeed once generally obtain in Europe; but the benevolent and humane spirit of the gospel and the principles of justice taught there, have long since generally abolished it from that quarter of the world.

The proscriptions and assassinations, which were so common among the antients, are a further proof of their injustice, violence and inhumanity. It is well known that during the contests of Marius and Edition: current; Page: [1204] Sylla, and during the triumvirate of Octavianus, Anthony and Lepidus, nothing was more common than to advertise a certain price for any man’s or any number of men’s heads; which was no other than hiring any cut-throat, and even a man’s own domestics, to murder him and bring in his head. In this way the best men of Rome were murdered, and among the rest Cicero the great orator, philosopher and ornament of Rome. Amidst all the vices justly imputable to christians, they are not guilty of such barbarity and outrage as this. Such is the salutary influence of christianity, that even kings, who among the antients no sooner fell into the hands of their rivals or opposers, than they were assassinated, are now not put to death without a formal trial; which is a clear demonstration among many others, of our improvement in civilization and humanity, beyond any thing which existed among the most enlightened heathens.

Another instance of the barbarity and inhumanity of the antients, is their treatment of their children. “The antient Roman laws gave the father a power of life and death over his children, upon this principle, that he who gave, had also the power to take away. And a son could not acquire any property of his own during the life of his father; but all his acquisitions belonged to his father, or at least the profits, for life.”* Thus children, during the life of their fathers, were perfect slaves, and in a worse condition than the slaves in this state; for the master in this state has not the power of life and death over his slaves. Nor were these mere speculations of the Romans; but their practice was correspondent. Hence the custom of exposing children; that is, of laying them, as soon as born, in the streets, on the banks of rivers, or in other frequented places, and unless some compassionate person should take them up and provide for them, leaving them there to perish and to be devoured by dogs. The motive to this horrid practice was, that the parents might be free from the trouble and expence of their education. Both Plato and Aristotle say, that there should be laws to prevent the education of weak children. Accordingly among the other Greeks, beside the Thebans, when a child was born, it was laid on the ground, and if the father designed to educate it, he immediately took it up. But if he forbore to do this, the child was carried away and exposed. The Lacedemonians indeed had a different custom; Edition: current; Page: [1205] for with them all new born children were brought before certain triers, who were some of the gravest men in their own tribes, by whom the infants were carefully viewed; and if they were found lusty and well favoured, they gave orders for their education; but if weakly and deformed, they ordered them to be cast into a deep cavern in the earth, near the mountain Taygetus, as thinking it neither for the good of the children nor for the public interest, that defective children should be brought up. [“]It was the unhappy fate of daughters especially to be thus treated, as requiring more charges to educate and settle them in the world than sons.”*

In several nations, not only infants, but also the aged and the infirm, were exposed and left to perish.

Another horrid inhumanity, prevalent among the antient heathens, was the practice of sacrificing captives and slaves at the funerals of the dead. Thus Achilles sacrificed twelve young Trojans to the manes of Patroclus; and Aeneas sent captives to Evander, to be sacrificed at the funeral of Pallas. This was first practised with respect to persons of great eminence only, but at length it was done at the funerals of all persons of property, and became a necessary part of the ceremony.

Another practice as horrid as any I have mentioned, was that of exhibiting gladiators, trained to fencing and the use of the sword, spear, &c. on purpose that they might fight and kill one another on the stage, for the mere entertainment of the spectators, as some people now bait bulls and set dogs to fighting. “These poor wretches were made to swear that they would fight unto death; and if they failed of this, they were put to death by fire or sword, clubs, whips, or the like.”

Those who have not attended to history, are apt to imagine, that the exhibition of gladiators was a rare thing, and that when it happened, a few pairs only were engaged. But it was far otherwise. Under the Roman emperors this inhuman entertainment cost innumerable lives. Cesar when edile, gave three hundred and twenty gladiators. Gordian in the time of his edileship, exhibited twelve entertainments, that is, one in each month. In some of these were five hundred champions, and in none of them less than one hundred and fifty. Taking it at a medium, he must have exhibited at the very least, three thousand. Titus exhibited these cruel shows for an Edition: current; Page: [1206] hundred days together. The good and moderate Trajan continued these spectacles for an hundred and twenty three days; and in that time gave ten thousand. When we consider how many different ranks of people gave these entertainments, ediles, pretors, questors, consuls, emperors and priests, besides private persons at funerals (which become so common a practice, that it was an article in a last will) we must be convinced, that the numbers were vast. What adds to the inhumanity of this custom, is, that it was designed for a gay entertainment and was attended as such. This horrible custom grew to such an extravagance, that it was found necessary to moderate it by law, in the time of the heathen emperors. Constantine first prohibited it altogether. But so violent was the taste for it, that it crept in again. The emperor Honorius entirely suppressed it.*

I shall take notice of only one more vice of the antient heathens, that is suicide. This was recommended by many philosophers, as an heroic act of virtue, and was practised by some of the highest fame, as by Zeno the founder of the sect of the Stoics, by Cato of Utica, and by Brutus. No wonder if under such instructors and such examples, suicide was very common among the antients. Beside the wickedness of this in the sight of God, the ruinous tendency of it in a political view is manifest on the slightest reflection. By this one vice not only any man may deprive the state of his aid and throw his family and dependents on the public; but the most important citizens, by throwing away their own lives in the most important and critical moment, may greatly endanger and entirely overthrow the commonwealth. What if our Washington, or the most wise and influential members of our congress, had destroyed themselves in the most critical periods of the late war?

From this brief survey of the vices of the antient heathens, I leave my hearers to judge how well founded the objection against christianity is, that it has depraved the morals of mankind.

I have now finished the observations which I intended, on the subject proposed, which was, the necessity of a belief of christianity by the citizens of this state, in order to our public and political prosperity. In subserviency to this general design I have endeavoured to show, that some religion is necessary to our political prosperity; that no other religion than the christian, can be generally received and established in this country; and that if some other religion could be Edition: current; Page: [1207] established among us, it would by no means be so useful in a political view, as the christian. I have endeavoured to illustrate the last observation by a comparison of christianity with the philosophical religion of infidelity and with antient paganism. I now beg leave to make two or three inferences from what has been said.

1. If christianity be more useful than any other religion, even for political purposes, we may presume that it is still more useful for the other purposes, which are indeed its immediate objects, piety and true virtue, and peace and comfort in them. The great foundations of religion and virtue are, the moral perfections of God, his moral government, the rule of our duty, a future state of retribution, the possibility of pardon and the end of our creation. Let us in these several particulars compare christianity with the philosophical religion, which is the only rival of christianity with any among us.

1. As to the moral perfections of God, christianity certainly teaches them more clearly than they can be learnt from any light afforded by the philosophical religion. The scriptures assure us, that holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; that he is a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he; that he is the Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty. Yea, they assure us, that God is love. They clear up the difficulty arising from the evil in the world, by informing us of the end of all things, and that all things shall finally be overruled for good. But the philosophical religion gives no clear evidence at all of the moral perfections of God. This is acknowledged by some of the principal writers on that system. Hume, the most acute of all infidels, says we ought to infer from the works of God, intermixed as they are with good and evil, that God is of a mixed character, partly good and partly evil. Also Lord Bolingbroke, another principal deistical writer, holds, that there is no evidence of the moral perfections of God.

2. The like advantage have we by the scriptures as to the evidence of the reality and nature of the moral government of God. On the pretence that we are under the influence of a necessity of coaction, it is denied by some infidels that we are moral agents, and that we are capable of either virtue or vice. Now not only is this matter cleared up by revelation, but it is to be observed, that to be consistent, such Edition: current; Page: [1208] infidels ought also to deny, that we are capable of any crime in civil society.

If we be not moral agents, we are no more capable of murder, than a stock or a stone; and a man who from malice prepense kills another, no more deserves punishment, than the stone or the tree, which falls on a man and crushes him to death; and the man who from a wish to introduce and establish arbitrary government in his country, now a free and happy republic, betrays its ships and fortresses, no more deserves punishment, than the tempests which sink the former, or the fire which consumes the latter.

Some deny, that God at all concerns himself with human affairs or actions. But this is not only not reconcileable with the scriptures, but not with the moral perfections of God. If we be capable of virtue, and yet he neglect us, so as not to set before us proper motives to it, and not to show by proper rewards and punishments his approbation of the virtuous, and disapprobation of the vicious; this cannot be reconciled with his moral perfection.

It is further urged, that we are not in any case punishable, as all things are right, or as the poet expresses it, whatever is, is right. If by this observation be meant, that things are by the all-wise and all-governing providence of God, overruled to answer a good purpose, though in many instances directly contrary to their natural tendency; this is granted. But if it be meant, that all things in their own nature tend to good, this is not true. Malice has no natural tendency to good but a natural tendency to evil. On the other hand, benevolence has a natural tendency to good. Nor will it be pretended, that if malice reigned through the universe, the universe would be as happy, as if benevolence universally reigned. It is the natural tendency of a rational action, which determines its moral quality, and not the consequence produced by Almighty God, contrary to its natural tendency.

If all human actions were in a moral view indifferent, we should no more deserve punishment for murder, than we should for saving our country from ruin.

This scheme shuts all moral good out of the universe, as well as all moral evil. For if all the tempers and actions of men, are as to morality alike, it must be because there is no morality in any of them. If there be moral good in any of those tempers or actions, there must be moral evil in the directly opposite; and if there be no moral evil in the Edition: current; Page: [1209] latter, there is no moral good in the former: as if there were no natural evil in pain there would be no natural good in pleasure.

But while infidels confound themselves and the principles of reason, in their discourses concerning the moral government of God; the scriptures assure us of the reality of that government, and of our accountableness to God.

3. The scriptures give us a plain and excellent rule of duty, pointing out our duty not only in general, but in all the most important particulars. How extremely deficient in this instance also, is the philosophical religion? It is indeed said, that the rule of our duty is right reason and the law of nature, and that virtue is a conformity to them. But this is saying no more than virtue is virtue, and that the rule of our duty is the rule of our duty. For right reason in this case means what is reasonable and right in a moral sense; and duty and what is right in a moral sense are the same thing: and it is just as difficult to find out the law of reason and of nature, as to find out our duty.

4. The scriptures give us the most positive assurance of a future state. But the philosophical religion can never assure us of this, because it cannot assure us of the moral perfections of God, by which alone he is disposed to reward the righteous and punish the wicked. Therefore infidels are greatly divided among themselves on this subject. Some as was before observed believe a future state, some disbelieve it. Those who believe such a state, believe that God made all men for their own personal happiness, and that therefore he will make them all happy in the future world. But all this depends on the moral perfections of God, of which they, as their principal writers confess, have no evidence. And if there be no evidence of God’s moral perfections, there is no evidence, that he designs the happiness of his creatures either here or hereafter: nor is there any evidence but that he designs the final misery of all his creatures. Or if infidels had evidence of the moral perfections of God, they would not have evidence, that God made every man for the end of his personal happiness. The perfect goodness of God doubtless implies, that he made all things with a design to promote good on the whole or on the large scale. So that taking the system of intelligent creatures together, there shall be the greatest possible happiness in it. But this does not imply, that every individual creature shall be completely happy. There is no Edition: current; Page: [1210] accounting for the calamities and sufferings of this life on any other supposition, than that they will all finally issue in the greatest happiness of the system: and to suppose that they conduce to the good of the system, by making the persons themselves who suffer them here, more happy hereafter, is a mere conjecture unsupported by any argument. Therefore to indulge it and to build upon it, is altogether unreasonable and unphilosophical.

On the whole, there is no evidence but that the good of the general system may be promoted by the exemplary punishment of the wicked in the future world. And if it would be promoted by such a punishment, infinite goodness not only admits of it, but requires and demands it.

5. The scriptures assure us of a way of pardon and acceptance with God; but the philosophical religion gives no such assurance. Infidels do indeed expect to be pardoned on their bare repentance. But the expectation of pardon on repentance, implies an acknowledgment, that they deserve punishment even though they repent, and that such punishment would be just: otherwise there could be no pardon in the case. To pardon is to exempt from punishment not an innocent man, but a guilty one: and to pardon a penitent implies that he deserves punishment, and that his punishment would be just. But if the punishment of the penitent would be just, the interest of the kingdom of God, the great community against which he has sinned, requires his punishment. The very idea of a just punishment is of one which, (there being no atonement or substitution), is due to the community or to the public good of the community, against which the crime punished was committed. But if the public good of God’s kingdom, which is the universe, require the punishment of the sinner, it is not consistent with divine goodness to pardon him. What ground then has the infidel to expect pardon, when both justice and goodness require his punishment?

6. Christianity informs us of the end of our creation. It is generally holden by infidels, as was before observed, that we were made for our own personal happiness. But if this were true, it would prove, that God does concern himself with human actions, and that he aims to prevent those which tend to our destruction. It would also prove, that those rational actions which tend to destroy our happiness, are Edition: current; Page: [1211] morally evil, and that all actions are not in the same sense right. The evidence that God created us for our own happiness, must depend on the evidence of God’s moral perfections. But as has been observed, the infidel has no evidence of these. Besides, if God really created us all for the end of our own personal happiness, it seems that he has in this world obtained his end, in a very imperfect degree only; and on the plan of infidelity there is no evidence of a future state. Therefore on that plan there is no evidence, that God will ever obtain his end in our creation.

Or if infidels should grant, that we were made for the general good of the system of intelligences, this would be to give up the chief object of infidelity; because the general good may admit of our misery in the future world, as it does of our misery in this.

But christianity clearly informs us, that God made all things for his glory, implying the greatest happiness and perfection of the creation as a system; or for the glorious exercise and display of his power, wisdom and goodness in raising his kingdom, which is the creation, as a system, to the highest degree of perfection and happiness.

Thus we see in what darkness, as to the most essential principles of religion, we should have been involved, had we not been favoured with the light of divine revelation, and in what darkness they are involved, who embrace the philosophical religion of infidelity. And thus we have further proof how happy that people is, whose God is the Lord, not only as this circumstance lays a foundation for their political good, but especially as it lays a foundation for true virtue and piety, for peace and comfort here and eternal happiness in the favour of God hereafter.

2. A second inference from this subject is, that since christianity appears to be necessary to the public good of the state, it ought to be encouraged by magistrates and rulers of every description. They are appointed to be the guardians of the public good; of course it is their duty to protect and promote every thing tending to it, and especially every thing necessary to it. Therefore as christianity is necessary to the public good, they are bound to encourage, promote and inculcate that, by their example and profession, by speaking and acting in favour of it both in public and private, by supporting christian ordinances and worship, and by promoting to places of trust and profit Edition: current; Page: [1212] those who profess it and live agreeably, and who are otherwise properly qualified. Magistrates are called to do all this on the ground of the soundest policy.

3. For the same reasons the citizens in general are obligated to encourage and promote christianity, by being themselves christians and that not only in profession, but in heart and life, and by giving their suffrages for those who are of the same character. It is indeed to be confessed, that not all professed christians are good men or real christians; yet among professed christians are many men, who possess good abilities and a proper share of information, who are strictly moral and upright, and who expect to give an account of their conduct to God. Such are the men to be promoted in the state; and the citizens by promoting such men, will encourage and promote christianity, and at the same time promote the good of the state.

I beg the further patience of the auditory, while I close the discourse, with the addresses usual on this occasion.

In the first place I beg leave to address myself to his Excellency the Governor.

May it please your Excellency,

In obedience to your command I appear in the desk this day; and I could think of no subject more important and at the same time more suitable to the present occasion, than the happiness of that people whose God is the Lord. I have therefore endeavoured to illustrate the necessity of the christian faith and practice, to the prosperity of the state. I may appeal to your Excellency how far this faith and practice have hitherto contributed to our political prosperity. Had not our ancestors been firm and exemplary in this faith and practice; had they not taken pains to hand them down to us; had they not in all their towns and settlements instituted schools, in which the principles of christianity, as well as other things were taught; had they not provided for the support of public worship, for the due observance of the Lord’s day and for the public teaching of christianity on that day; had they not provided for the support of a studious and learned ministry, who being themselves men of knowledge, should be able to instruct others; I appeal to your Excellency, whether our political affairs would not at present have worn a very different aspect. And if our supreme magistrates had not been, both by profession and apparent Edition: current; Page: [1213] practice, christians, it would doubtless have had a very baleful influence on the christian and moral character of the people at large, and consequently on our political prosperity. But we are happy in that we have had from the beginning, even to the present day, a series of governors, who have been not only an honour to the state, but ornaments to our churches. May such a series be still kept up without interruption. This, as it will be a proof of our christian character, will also be a proof of our public prosperity in every successive period, and a pledge of our subsequent prosperity. May God grant, that your Excellency shall effectually contribute to this prosperity in every way, in which your eminent situation affords opportunity. And when earthly states and empires shall be no more, may your Excellency, in that series of excellent men and excellent governors, and among all real christians, “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of your Father.”

2. The discourse addresses itself to his Honour the Lieutenant Governour, to the legislative council of the state, and to the representatives of the towns in general assembly.

Honourable legislators,

Since the belief and practice of christianity are so necessary to the political good of our state, and since you are appointed to be the guardians of our political good, I thought it not impertinent to suggest to you some important means, by which you may obtain the end for which you are appointed. Opposition to christianity both in faith and practice was never, at least in our country, so great and so increasing, as at the present day. It lies with you, gentlemen, by a steady belief, profession and practice of christianity; by your conversation and weight; by the appointments which you shall make to the various offices, civil and military, and by all your public proceedings, to withstand this opposition, and to guard against the danger to the public good, arising from the depravity of manners which opposition to christianity naturally induces. It is your province, in conjunction with his Excellency the Governour, to appoint all our executive civil authority and to confer the higher military honours. When men of licentious principles and practice are promoted either in the civil or military line, it gives a dignity and an influence to vice and irreligion. And “one sinner destroys much good,” especially when exalted to a Edition: current; Page: [1214] high station of honour and authority. Now, if you give this advantage to vice, you will thereby injure the state; but more immediately you will injure religion and the kingdom of Christ. And let me beseech you to remember, that you also have a master in heaven, to whom you, as well as the rest of men, must give an account. The only way to gain his approbation is, to keep a conscience void of offence, and in your political transactions not to act from party attachments and private connections, not to practice intrigue to serve your own interests or those of your friends; but to endeavour to serve the public in the best manner according to your capacity and opportunity. In so doing you will appoint to the several executive offices, men of knowledge and discretion; men that fear God and hate covetousness; men who will be just and rule in the fear of God. By the promotion of such men, virtue will be encouraged and vice will be restrained; by their official proceedings, law and justice will be executed, and “judgment will run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream,” even that righteousness which exalteth a nation. Then shall our political interests be in a prosperous state; then shall we be that happy people whose God is the Lord.

3. The reverend pastors of the churches, who are present, will suffer the word of exhortation.

My fathers and brethren,

We who are employed in the work of the ministry, are deeply interested in this subject. We are interested in the prosperity of the state, and are peculiarly interested in this mean of prosperity on which I have been insisting. It is our business to study and teach christianity, and thus to promote the political good of the state, as well as the spiritual good of the souls of our hearers. This is a noble employment, to fidelity and zeal in which, not only the motives of religion call us, but even those of patriotism. Therefore if we have any love to religion and the souls of men; nay if we have any public spirit and love to our country, let us diligently study the evidences, the nature, the doctrines and duties of christianity, and inculcate them with all plainness, assiduity and perseverance, giving line upon line and precept upon precept. This is to be done,

1. By instruction. Without communicating instruction and information concerning the truth, we can expect to do nothing in our Edition: current; Page: [1215] work to any good purpose. Knowledge and not ignorance is the mother of real devotion. The rational mind is to be led by the exhibition of the truth only.

2. By every motive to persuade, drawn from reason and revelation, from time and eternity; and among others this motive of the public good of the state and our general happiness, liberty and prosperity as a people, is not to be omitted.

3. By a christian life and conversation. If we do these things; if we thus instruct, persuade and live, we shall at last stand in our lot, and shall be owned as his, when Christ our Lord and judge “shall make up his jewels.”

4. I shall, in the last place, address myself in a very few words to this numerous auditory collectively. Men and brethren, this subject nearly concerns you all. How happy would you be, if the Lord were indeed your God? Nor can you be truly happy on any other condition. However prosperous you may be in your private concerns, in your property, your business and your reputation; yet unless you are the objects of the favour of God and the heirs of eternal life, you are truly in a miserable situation. You have not only the motive of eternal happiness to choose the Lord for your God; but the motives of the peace, good order, and happiness of the people as a body politic, and the general prosperity of the state. You all feel a firm attachment to your liberties and to the privileges of a republican government. Of all forms of government a republic most essentially requires virtue and good morals in the great body of the people, in order to its prosperity and even its existence. But the way to virtue and good morals is to choose the Lord for your God. Nor is this all; you not only have to choose and serve the Lord yourselves, but by the same reasons by which you are obligated to choose the Lord for your God, you are obligated to seek out and by your suffrages to promote to legislative authority, such as are of the same character. In a republic all authority is derived from the people: and such as they generally are, we may expect their representatives, legislators and all their civil authority will be. If you have the Lord for your God, you will elect those of the same character with yourselves, to be your legislators; you will encourage and support them and other faithful rulers in the thorough discharge of their duties of civil government, and you will withhold your suffrages from those who acknowledge not the Lord as their Edition: current; Page: [1216] God and regard not his law. Nor can you consistently and innocently give your suffrages to men of this last discription: for thus you would give a sanction and influence to sin and vice, would be partakers of their wickedness and would do an injury to the state.

But if you and the good people of the state in general shall unite to practise virtue and christianity, and to promote the wisest and best men among us, we shall doubtless be that happy people described in the text, and as so many instances of our happiness “judgment shall dwell in the wilderness and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.”

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david osgood the wonderful works of god are to be remembered fpage="1217" lpage="1234"


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David Osgood (1747-1822). Osgood left the fields of his father’s farm at the age of nineteen, mastered a Latin grammar, and sixteen months later was admitted to Harvard, where he was graduated in the class of 1771. The Arminians complained that he was a Calvinist, and the Calvinists that he was Arminian. Eventually, on a controversial vote, he became the third minister of the First Congregational Parish of Medford, Massachusetts, and he remained there the rest of his life. A rough-cut man, short on the social amenities, he was a moderate patriot during the Revolution. He socialized little, catechized once a year, and never visited parishioners except on such formal church occasions as weddings and funerals. In later years he took to memorizing his sermons and repeating them now and again, a process restricted by one retentive congregation member who would raise his hand during a sermon to indicate with a number of fingers how many times he had heard it.

Osgood was an incandescent orator, however, sufficiently so to impress Daniel Webster, who commented on one sermon that “it was the most impressive eloquence it had ever been his fortune to hear” (Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 17:574). Osgood was preeminently a political preacher: Of twenty-two published sermons, several of them widely reprinted, eleven were on political subjects. This Thanksgiving Day sermon brought Osgood instant celebrity for its attack on Governor Samuel Adams for failing to mention the federal government, whose 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation (by President Washington) was being observed. Osgood detected a Republican conspiracy—he even suspected secession—in this, and the hand of the Jacobins at work. The sermon went through six pamphlet reprintings (the second edition is given here), as well as newspaper reprintings, and it engendered a response covering the entire front page of a Republican newspaper, the Independent Chronicle (April 3, 1795), along with a number of other replies. A Federalist newspaper commented that Reverend Osgood knew “by the roaring of the Jacobins, that he [had] bitten them in a sore place” (Ibid., p. 575).

When asked about his practice of reading the text, closing the Bible, then removing his glasses and discoursing from memory, Osgood gave two reasons for this: “One, that he believed he could give his discourse greater effect by looking his auditors in the face—the other, that he wished to shew the Methodists and Baptists (of whom Edition: current; Page: [1219] Edition: current; Page: [1220] it seems he has a number in his own parish) either that preaching without notes was no proof of inspiration, or, that he was as much inspired as themselves” (Ibid., p. 577). An unknown commentator wrote:

There were passages in some of the sermons that we heard from the “old man eloquent,” that thrilled through our frames, and such as could not easily be resisted or forgotten. And when in the midst of what seemed commonplace he laid aside his spectacles and turned away from his manuscripts, we were sure that it would be followed by a burst of fiery eloquence, and we were not mistaken. He held the audience for some minutes in rapt attention, and we hardly knew whether we were in the body or out of the body, so completely were we entranced and caught up, as it were, into the third heaven (Ibid., p. 578).

Osgood died of angina pectoris on December 12, 1822. A 469-page volume of his sermons was published in 1824.

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He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered.

Psalm CXI. 4.

The works of God are usually distinguished into those of creation, and those of providence. By the former, we understand the stretching forth and garnishing of the heavens, the forming and replenishing of the earth, and the originating of the present order and course of nature. By the latter, are meant the continued preservation, the upholding and governing of all these things; and the superintending of all events, both in the natural and moral world. All these are great and wonderful works, worthy to be had in constant remembrance by every rational spectator. They make God to be remembered; nay, they are so many memorials of him, witnessing his eternal power and godhead, his overflowing benignity, and his care of, and kindness towards, his creatures.

They who have any taste for intellectual and moral pleasures, who are capable of relishing what is grand and sublime, will delight in prying into, and contemplating these great and wonderful works of creation and providence. To this purpose it is observed in the context, that the works of the Lord being great, honourable and glorious, they will be sought out or investigated by all them who have pleasure therein. By these works the Psalmist has special reference to the more signal dispensations of Providence in his dealings with his covenant people, the descendants of Abraham his friend. In these dispensations he set before them the most striking illustrations of his character and glorious perfections. They often saw him, on one occasion and another, triumphing over the false gods of the heathen around them, executing judgment upon their vain idols, and confounding their stupid worshippers. They saw his infinite power displayed in an almost continued series of miraculous operations; his justice in the exemplary punishment of cruel oppressors; his mercy in numberless affecting instances towards themselves; and his truth and faithfulness in the exact fulfilment of his promises and predictions. These things were intended to make lasting impressions on their minds—such as might not be easily or speedily effaced. The wonderful works of Providence are wrought for this very purpose, that, by beholding them, men Edition: current; Page: [1222] may be so affected, as to have God continually in their thoughts, and thereby be led to fear and serve him.

The text may teach us, that the more signal mercies of heaven towards us, and those more remarkable deliverances which, at any time, have been wrought in our favour, ought to be gratefully remembered, and thankfully acknowledged by us. These things are some of the chief beauties and most brilliant pages in that book of Providence, which it highly concerns us daily to read and study. This book indeed contains the whole history of God’s dealings with mankind, from age to age; in which he displays his moral perfections to the view of his rational offspring. The clear light of eternity will show every part of this volume to be full of meaning; and such an explanation will then be given to those passages, which are now esteemed dark and mysterious, as will induce enraptured saints, with astonishment, to exclaim, O the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! But while we dwell in this land of shadows and obscurity, we see only a small proportion of what God does; and having such limited views of his dispensations, it is no wonder if we be unable to comprehend the meaning of particular events.

There are many, however, which contain such striking illustrations of the divine attributes, especially of the divine mercy and goodness, that we can be at no loss about them. Not a few of these have fallen within our own observation; and many others our ears have heard, and our fathers have told us. God expects and requires, that we gather them up as a treasure, and carefully preserve them in our memories. They are in themselves memorable; and he hath done them, that they might be remembered by us. Of course, he is highly offended when men forget his works and the wonders which he hath shewed them. Such behaviour reflects upon the Divine Majesty, as though his method of governing the world, and his dealings with his creatures, were not worthy of our attention. The misery and destruction of men are, in some instances, attributed to their not regarding the work of the Lord, nor considering the operation of his hands. And it is certain, that the frequent review of the more striking dispensations of Providence is of excellent use to confirm us in the belief, and to excite us to the practice, of true religion. Through the weakness and darkness of their minds, and the strength of their corruptions, mankind are prone to unbelief. Some, under every advantage for light and conviction, do, Edition: current; Page: [1223] notwithstanding, indulge to sceptical opinions: And they would generally, perhaps, be in danger of such opinions, and of calling in question the first principles and fundamental articles even of natural religion, the being, perfections, and moral government of the Deity; were it not for those less common appearances of his Providence, by which they are awakened to consider the manifold proofs of a Supreme Almighty Ruler working in the midst of them, and sitting as Governor and Judge among the nations.

At certain periods of time, through the several ages and among the different nations of the world, God breaks forth in signal and remarkable dispensations for the relief of the righteous, or for the punishment of the wicked. His providence is seen justifying its own procedure in vindicating and delivering oppressed innocence, or in precipitating prosperous guilt from its lofty seat. On these occasions, God is known by the glory that surrounds him. Beholding these extraordinary proofs of his presence and power, men are constrained to say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.

And when we are once established in the belief of such a great and glorious Being, this faith will naturally prompt us to fear and serve him. Convinced of his power and justice by the awful manifestations of them in his works, we shall be led to stand in awe of him, and heedfully to shun whatever we apprehend to be offensive in his sight. Struck with the more signal displays of his mercy and goodness, and excited by them to the more fixed contemplation of his unbounded beneficence; we shall be satisfied, that our happiness must consist in the enjoyment of his favour. This persuasion will render us anxious to know what the Lord our God requires of us; and solicitous to approve ourselves to him, by a patient continuance in well-doing.

Our present trust in the divine mercy is also encouraged by the remembrance of former favours and deliverances. For this purpose, among others, the Israelites were enjoined to teach “their children the praises of the Lord, his strength, and his wonderful works—that the generation to come might know them—even the children which should be born: who should arise and declare them to their children; that they might set their hope in God.”

The honour of God, the interests of religion, and the comfort and consolation of good men, being all promoted by the memory of the Edition: current; Page: [1224] divine dispensations; it is highly agreeable to reason, and consonant to scripture, that public days should be set apart, on which a whole people may unite in celebrating the goodness of God; recollecting the instances of his providential care of, and kindness towards, them; and talking of his wonderful works in their favour. Such institutions serve as pillars of remembrance, to revive and perpetuate a sense of our obligations to heaven. The thoughts of the great body of the people are so taken up about their own private affairs, that they are prone to pay but little attention to the concerns of the public. After the first impression is worn off, they soon forget, at least practically, national mercies and deliverances, as well as national judgments. They need to have their minds stirred up by way of remembrance. And when God, by a long and continued series of remarkable interpositions, has multiplied, blessed, and prospered any people—has, on one occasion and another, repeatedly rescued them from great and threatning dangers—put them in full possession of their rights and liberties, laws and religion; and from year to year continues them in the quiet enjoyment of these privileges, together with the usual bounties of his munificent providence; they cannot too frequently recollect, nor too fervently and gratefully acknowledge, these signal instances of the divine benignity. It surely becomes christian magistrates, and is a duty they owe to God, to call upon their subjects to unite in commemorating these wonderful works of heaven in their favour.

Our forefathers, from the first settlement of the country, esteemed certain seasons of the year as highly proper for special acts of devotion. At the opening of the spring, they judged it fit and suitable, to set apart a day for humiliation and prayer; that they might implore the divine blessing on the affairs of the ensuing season—that it might be rendered fruitful, healthy and prosperous. And after the reception of these mercies, at the close of the season, another day was set apart for public thanksgiving. To this custom of our pious and renowned ancestors the proclamation for the observance of this day expressly refers. To the friends of religion among us it must be highly agreeable, to join in making this day a grateful memorial of God’s providential kindness towards us; and especially, in recording the more signal mercies of the last revolving season.

He hath, says the proclamation, been pleased to favour us with a good measure of health, while others, whom we ought to pity and pray for, have Edition: current; Page: [1225] been visited with contagious and mortal sickness. In the West-India Islands, in some of the southern states, and even in the neighbouring state of Connecticut, we have heard of an unusual mortality. But among ourselves, the instances of it have, as yet, fallen considerably short of the average number for the last twenty years. It is rare, indeed, that a year passes over us in which health is more generally enjoyed. Life is the basis of all our enjoyments in this world; and health is the balm of life. It sweetens and enhances all the comforts of life. It enables us to bear our part in the affairs of the world, and to partake of that rich profusion of good which a bountiful Providence sets before us. When therefore we see, or hear of, others from whom this blessing is withdrawn, it ought to excite our gratitude afresh, that to us it is still continued. On this day it becomes us, with increased love and thankfulness, to pay our vows to that Being who is the health of our countenance and the God of our lives; whose kind visitations uphold us in the land of the living, while many others, cut off by pining sickness, are continually sinking into the grave.

Next to the blessing of health, the proclamation mentions those of harvest: He hath smiled on our agricultural labours, and caused the earth to yield her increase. For the space of some weeks, at the opening of the spring, our prospect was melancholy. An early drought and a late frost, unusually severe, alarmed our apprehensions. But, from that period, we have rarely known, in this vicinity, a more fruitful season. Refreshing showers succeeding each other at short intervals, preceded and followed with a warm sun, have furnished a continued supply of grass for the cattle, and rendered the latter harvest, and the various productions of autumn, plentiful and abundant. In this respect also we record the rich bounty of Providence, and are constrained gratefully to acknowledge, that still “he leaveth not himself without witness, in that he continueth to do us good, to give us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

With the blessings already recounted the proclamation goes on to inform us, that He hath prospered our fishery, and in a great measure our merchandise, notwithstanding the depredations of unreasonable despoilers. The attack of these despoilers upon our commerce has undoubtedly been infamous, and such as ought to be execrated by all civilized nations. And were we to judge of the extent of the mischief which they have done us, from the representations in some of the public papers, and Edition: current; Page: [1226] in the resolves of certain self-created societies, we might be led to conclude, that the trade of the country was annihilated, and all its merchants bankrupts. It is therefore, after such continued alarms through the season, some consolation to hear, from so high an authority, that, notwithstanding all our losses, disappointments and vexations, a great measure of commercial prosperity has been enjoyed. Of this, indeed, we have yet further evidence even ocular demonstration, in the splendid and princely appearance of many of our mercantile citizens, and in the high price of our country produce, enhanced to a degree, which (though oppressive and ruinous to a few individuals whose sole dependence is upon a fixed stipend) is yet exceedingly gainful to the great body of the community. Such prodigious exportations would not, and could not, be continued, did not the merchant, notwithstanding every risk, find his account in them.

What a claim upon our gratitude then is this, that, through the mercy of heaven, we are allowed to increase in wealth, in numbers and strength, at a time, when the nations of Europe are madly wasting, impoverishing and destroying each other. There the awakened jealousy of tyrants, tenacious of their usurped powers, and the ferocious zeal, the desperate fury of a mighty, though long oppressed nation, have set the world in a flame. These lusts consume the abundance of the seas and the treasures of the dry land, the productions both of nature and art: They lay waste the works and improvements of ages, and, so far as their power extends, render all the elements subservient to misery and ruin. What a blast do the follies and vices of men bring upon the rich blessings of heaven? For our continued exemption from these scenes of devastation and ruin, how fervent should be our gratitude to the supreme Disposer: In times past we have experienced them; and may heaven grant, that we may know them no more! As yet we hail each of the contending nations as our friends; and while they are mutually suffering such complicated evils from one another, these states present a common asylum for the distressed of all parties, who are almost daily arriving on our peaceful shores.

The enumeration of blessings in the proclamation concludes with adding, He hath continued to us the inestimable blessing of the Gospel, and our religious, as well as civil rights and liberties. For the former of these—the Edition: current; Page: [1227] rich blessings of the gospel and our religious privileges—as they are primarily a supernatural grant from heaven, and comprise all our hopes and prospects for eternity; so no period, short of that endless duration, will be sufficient for adequate returns of adoration and praise. For the latter, our civil rights and liberties, we are, under Providence, and as the mean by which heaven has granted and continues them to us, indebted to a cause or source which, I am sorry to observe, is not mentioned, nor even referred to, in the proclamation—I mean the general or federal government. This omission is strange and singular, beyond any thing of the kind that I recollect to have seen since the first union of the states in the memorable year 1775. It has, to say the least, a strong appearance of disconnection with the general government, and an air of separate sovereignty and independence, as though we enjoyed not our civil rights in union with the other states under one common head.

Here then, I think it my duty, to remind you, that of all our political blessings for which we ought, on this day, to make our grateful acknowledgments to the divine goodness, our federal government is the greatest, the chief, and, in fact, the basis of the whole. Its form and constitution are by wise men universally admired. The wisdom, integrity, ability and success of its administration have commanded the respect and applause of the world. Its happy effects and consequences to ourselves, which we have known and experienced, have been great and estimable, beyond any other political good which we have ever enjoyed. By guarantying to each of the states a republican form of government, and the enjoyment of every right consistent with the rights of the whole, it becomes to them all their greatest security against the attempts both of internal faction and external invasion. In this view, it is their main pillar of support and bulwark of defence.

Previous to the adoption of this most excellent form of government—under the old confederation, these states presented to the world a many-headed monster, frightful and alarming to all the lovers of peace and good order. Each state claimed a negative on the resolves of the whole in Congress assembled; and the regulations of the several states respectively were continually interfering and clashing with each other. From this foundation for discord, parties and divisions were Edition: current; Page: [1228] inevitable. In almost every state, many were disaffected towards their own immediate government. In some of the states, open rebellions existed. Things went on from bad to worse, till the administration of justice was suspended, the laws silenced—all public and private faith left without a support, and the obligation of promises and contracts set aside. Men could neither confide in the public, nor in one another. Industry wanted encouragement—trade languished—a general uneasiness prevailed; and we tottered on the brink of the most dreadful convulsions.

The federal government was no sooner organized, than it speedily rescued us from this eminently hazardous situation. It gave fresh vigor to each of the state governments; awed into submission the factious through all the states; restored the course of justice, and thereby established peace and good order among the citizens at large. It recovered the sinking credit of the nation, together with that of the respective states; and gave such a spring to commerce, agriculture, manufactures, and all those useful arts which supply the necessaries and conveniencies of life, that they have flourished to a degree incomparably beyond what had ever been known in this country before. In promoting these important ends of every good government, it exceeded the most sanguine expectations of its friends and patrons. So striking and manifest were its beneficial effects, that even its restless enemies were compelled to silence. This tide of public prosperity continued rising even after the commencement of the present troubles in Europe: The current of our trade flowed for a while with but little interruption, and with accumulated profit to our merchants and farmers.

In this prosperous situation of our affairs, a foreign incendiary appeared among us; the object of whose mission was, at all events, to draw us in for a share in the war of Europe. By fair negociation with the existing government, he had no hope of success. It was therefore necessary, that the government should be overthrown; or, at least, that the wise and good men entrusted with its administration, should be driven from the helm. Materials for either or both of these purposes were ready to his hand.

In every country there are some who envy the abilities of their superiours, and covet their stations; some constitutionally turbulent Edition: current; Page: [1229] and uneasy, who can have pleasure in nothing but scenes of tumult and confusion; some who can make themselves conspicuous on no other occasions; and some in desperate circumstances, whose only hope of bettering them is in revolutions of government. Besides a proportion of all these, there has been in this country a large party, from the beginning, ill affected toward the federal government; and with these may be reckoned numbers of ignorant, though honest, people, who think the period arrived when the debt of gratitude ought to be paid to our allies. The passions, prejudices and opinions of these several classes of people prepared their minds to receive the impressions of an insidious minister.

He immediately put in practice the arts which had proved so dreadfully efficacious in his own country. His intrigues were suddenly and surprisingly extended. His very breath seemed to kindle the smothered embers of sedition from Georgia to Newhampshire. Presses through the states were engaged to forward his designs, by conveying torrents of slander and abuse against the great officers of government. Popular societies, unknown to the laws, were recommended and actually formed under the influence of demagogues well skilled in the business of faction. The British councils, as though in league to aid the attempts of Genet, perfidiously seized upon our trade, and thereby furnished (what as yet had been wanting) a plausible occasion for clamour to those who were seeking it, and a just ground of resentment and indignation to the most peaceable and well disposed. The passions of men were worked up to a degree of fury. Rash and violent measures were proposed and strenuously urged. Favoured by these circumstances of embarrassment to the government, the western counties in Pennsylvania embraced the opportunity to rise in rebellion.

Such, my hearers, have been the trials and dangers to which our peace, liberty, and all our political happiness, have been exposed. That the consequences have not, as yet, been more pernicious, we have abundant reason, this day, to thank and praise the Supreme Disposer. Our general government, with all our rights and privileges embarked, has been steering between Scylla and Charybdis: That we have not been dashed upon either, is owing to the good hand of God, influencing and directing the pilots.

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The prospect is now more favourable. Through the wise and good conduct of the president, his ministers, and the men of sober judgment in Congress, we seem to have escaped many rocks and quicksands. With dignity and firmness they resisted the intrigues and machinations of an unworthy ambassador, till, at length, they obtained his removal. With respect to the nation from whom we have received unprovoked injuries, while they have been preparing for the dernier resort, by putting the country into a state of defence; they have sent forward to them the remonstrance of reason, truth and justice, that (if possible) they might prevent the dreadful calamity of war. A degree of success has already attended the negociation. The offending power now appears half ashamed of the wrongs which it hath committed against us; and is constrained to promise restitution. They have also, the present year, been successful against the hostile tribes of savages: And to suppress rebellion, have sent forth an army so numerous and powerful as affords the hopeful prospect of effecting the purpose without the effusion of blood. To the several democratic societies through the states, who have incessantly censured, misrepresented and calumniated all these measures of our federal rulers, they have opposed a dignified patience and moderation, worthy of their high stations and great abilities.

But as those societies, and the spirit of faction which they engender, nourish and spread among the people, are, in my view, the greatest danger which, at present, threatens the peace and liberties of our country, I shall close this discourse with a few strictures upon them.

In every country the men of ambition, who covet the chief seats in government, exert all their abilities to ingratiate themselves with the source of power. Under a monarchy they are the most servile courtiers at the levee of the prince. In a republic, the same men appear in the character of flaming patriots, profess the warmest zeal for liberty, and call themselves the friends of the people. In monarchies, their intrigues and factions are endless. But as the monarch himself is the main object of all their attempts, over whom they endeavour to extend their influence; their factions are usually limited to the precincts of the court, and rarely occasion any general convulsion in the empire. In a republic, the case is widely different: thousands and millions Edition: current; Page: [1231] are the object whom they would influence. Of course, the more popular any government is, the more liable it is to be agitated and rent by parties and factions. Our’s is not the first republic which the world has seen. Some centuries before the christian era, the states of ancient Greece and Rome were so many republics. But through the intrigues of ambitious and designing men, influencing each one his party, they became so many hot beds of faction and dissention. Their worthiest and best characters, when such chanced to hold the reins of government, were soon hunted down; and the vilest of men took their places, and this in continual rotation. Civil wars frequently occurred; and as either party prevailed, proscriptions, banishments and massacres ensued. Precisely the same scenes are now exhibited in France. We all rejoiced at the downfall of despotism in that country: We considered it as the dawn of liberty to the world. But how soon was the fair morning overcast? They had no sooner adopted a popular government, than all the violence of faction broke out. A constitution, which the collected wisdom of the nation had been two years in framing, was, in a day or an hour, overset and demolished. From that time to this, their civil government has been nothing but a contest of parties, carried on with all the ferocity of barbarians. Previous to the revolution, it was said of the French, that so refined was their sensibility, so abhorrent of every appearance of cruelty, that they would not suffer tragedy to be acted at their theatres. Is it not astonishing, how so great a change in the morals and manners of a nation could be so suddenly effected? Faction alone accounts for it. Had the representatives of the nation been left to act their own judgment, uncontrouled by the leaders of faction, they would never have been guilty of those excesses and cruelties which chill all humane minds with horror. But how came those factious leaders by such a controuling power over the convention? Solely by means of those popular societies in which they presided, or over which they first gained an influence. These gave to faction its whole force.

On the same principles with those in France are founded the democratic societies in this country; and should they become numerous here, as they are there, they will infallibly have a similar effect. Their pretence is, to watch government—they mean the federal government. But this, like each of the state governments, is chosen by the nation Edition: current; Page: [1232] at large; and, of course, every man in his individual capacity has an equal right and an equal interest in watching its measures. What presumption then is it, and what an usurpation of the rights of their brethren, for private associations, unauthorized by the laws, to arrogate this charge to themselves? Admitting the propriety of setting a watch upon Congress and the president; are not the state legislatures fully competent to the business? Is not their interest at stake, and their jealousy always awake, ready to notice any fault or error in the general government? What then is there for these private associations to do? Good they cannot do; and if they do any thing, it must be evil. And that they have done evil already, and are, in fact, the support of a pernicious and inveterate faction against the general government, among many other unquestionable proofs, the omission of our chief magistrate, just mentioned, is, to my mind, not an improbable one. For unless we suppose him to have fallen under the baneful influence of those societies, we know not how to account for his having hazarded a proclamation in which we are directed, neither to give thanks for any advantages enjoyed by means of that government, nor even to ask the blessing of heaven upon it.* As though its destruction were already decreed, it is treated as no longer the subject of prayer.

Should so melancholy an event as its overthrow ultimately take place, no cause at present appears so probable, as those ill-judged associations. To pull down and destroy good governments as well as bad, is their only tendency. In the nature of things they can have no other effect. In such a country as this, therefore, where, through the distinguishing mercy of heaven, we have obtained a government so admirably adapted to promote the general happiness, these irregular and unwarrantable associations ought to be guarded against and suppressed with a vigilance like that with which we extinguish a fire when it is kindling in a great city. Their meetings are so many collections of combustibles; and should they be generally extended, the whole country will be in a flame. The members of those societies, by virtue of this relation, necessarily become the mere tools and dupes of Edition: current; Page: [1233] their artful leaders, who have their own ends to serve by all their professions of patriotism.

The moment a man is attached to a club, his mind is not free: He receives a bias from the opinions of the party: A question indifferent to him, is no longer indifferent, when it materially affects a brother of the society. He is not left to act for himself; he is bound in honour to take part with the society—his pride and his prejudices, if at war with his opinion, will commonly obtain the victory; and rather than incur the ridicule or censure of his associates, he will countenance their measures, at all hazards; and thus an independent freeman is converted into a mere walking machine, a convenient engine of party leaders.

In this way a few ambitious individuals are enabled to extend their influence; and as they rise in power and consequence, to infringe upon the liberty of the public.

Each individual member of the state should have an equal voice in elections; but the individuals of a club have more than an equal voice, because they have the benefit of another influence; that of extensive private attachments, which come in aid of each man’s political opinion. And just in proportion as the members of a club have an undue share of influence, in that proportion they abridge the rights of their fellow citizens. Every club therefore, formed for political purposes, is an aristocracy established over their brethren. It has all the properties of an aristocracy, and all the effects of tyranny. It is a literal truth, that the democratic clubs in the United States, while running mad with the abhorrence of aristocratic influence, are attempting to establish precisely the same influence under a different name. And if any thing will rescue this country from the jaws of faction, it must be either the good sense of a great majority of Americans, which will discourage private political associations, and render them contemptible; or the controling power of the laws of the country, which, in an early stage, shall demolish all such institutions, and secure to each individual, in the great political family, equal rights and an equal share of influence in his individual capacity.

But let us admit that no fatal consequences to government, and equal rights, will ensue from these institutions, still their effects on social harmony are very pernicious, and already begin to appear. A party spirit is hostile to all friendly intercourse; it inflames the passions; it sours the mind; it destroys good neighbourhood: it warps the judgment in judicial determinations: it banishes candor and substitutes prejudice; it restrains the exercise Edition: current; Page: [1234] of benevolent affections; and in proportion as it chills the warm affections of the soul, it undermines the whole system of moral virtue. Were the councils of hell united to invent expedients for depriving men of the little portion of good they are destined to enjoy on this earth, the only measure they need adopt for this purpose, would be, to introduce factions into the bosom of the country. Faction begets disorder, force, rancorous passions, anarchy, tyranny, blood and slaughter.*

May the God of order and peace preserve us from such dreadful calamities! and to him shall be the glory forever.

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Noah Webster (1758–1843). Son of the Congregational deacon Noah Webster, Sr., the author of this discourse on the French Revolution was the great lexicographer who gave birth to An American Dictionary of the English Language. The younger Noah received his preparatory training for college from Reverend Nathan Perkins in West Hartford, Connecticut. He entered Yale but then briefly served in the Revolutionary War; he resumed his studies at Yale and was graduated in 1778. Intent upon a legal career, he was in due course admitted to the bar in Hartford, only to give up law practice in 1793. From 1782 onward, he had been increasingly drawn to his true career, the study and teaching of the English language in its distinctive and patriotic modes. His grammars, readers, and spellers began to be published in 1784 and were issued and reissued well into this century. Webster estimated that fifteen million copies of The American Spelling Book had been printed by 1837 and, in all, a hundred million (running through four hundred editions) of the blue-backed speller had been printed by the twentieth century.

Webster agitated throughout the country for a copyright law to protect his publications and eventually saw one passed. A strong Federalist, he campaigned for the adoption of the Constitution. He also lectured far and wide on the English language and collaborated with Benjamin Franklin in devising a phonetic alphabet. Though Franklin’s version proved too radical for full adoption, his and Webster’s efforts helped shape the American language.

In New York, Webster edited magazines and newspapers off and on over a ten-year period. By 1803—having moved to New Haven, Connecticut, in 1798—he had abandoned that line of work and turned to his chief concern, the study of language. Beginning with the publication of a preparatory lexicon in 1806, he brought forth the Dictionary in two quarto volumes in 1828. The most ambitious publishing project in America up to that time, this work demonstrated a great advance in the field of lexicography.

Webster spent most of his later years in Amherst, Massachusetts, and in New Haven, and in that period he published five revisions of the Dictionary, a revised translation of the King James Version of the Bible, and many essays and addresses. Captured by the inspirations of the Second Awakening, he became a strong Calvinist and Congregationalist, especially after 1808.

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In The Revolution in France, Webster brilliantly reflects on the religious and philosophic implications of the upheaval. Always concerned to find a balance between virtue and liberty, this piece marked Webster’s departure (in the words of William F. Vartorella) “from his tenets espousing the rights of man to self-enhancement. The indiscriminate use of the guillotine made him shudder; his philosophical foundation crumbled under the strain and man, a sullen being, emerged as depraved” (American Writers Before 1800, p. 1534).

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In the progress of the French Revolution, candid men find much to praise, and much to censure. It is a novel event in the history of nations, and furnishes new subjects of reflection. The end in view is noble; but whether the spirit of party and faction, which divided the National Assembly, sacrificed one part, and gave to the other the sovereign power over the nation, will not deprive the present generation of the blessings of freedom and good government, the objects contended for, is a very interesting question. Equally interesting is it to enquire what will be the effects of the revolution on the agriculture, commerce, and moral character of the French nation. The field of speculation is new, and the subject curious.

The writer of the following remarks came into society, during the late war with Great-Britain; his heart was very early warmed with a love of liberty; his pen has often advocated her cause. When the revolution in France was announced in America, his heart exulted with joy; he felt nearly the same interest in its success, as he did in the establishment of American independence. This joy has been much allayed by the sanguinary procedings of the Jacobins, their atheistical attacks on christianity, and their despicable attention to trifles. He is however candid enough to believe much of the violence of their measures may be attributed to the combination of powers, formed for the most unwarrantable purpose of dictating to an independent nation its form of government. Perhaps other circumstances, not known in this country, may serve to palliate the apparent cruelty of the ruling faction. But there are some proceedings of the present convention, which admit of no excuse but a political insanity; a wild enthusiasm, violent and irregular, which magnifies a mole-hill into a mountain; and mistakes a shadow for a giant.

A just estimate of things, their causes and effects, is always desireable; and it is of infinite consequence to this country, to ascertain the point where our admiration of the French measures should end, and our censure, begin; the point, beyond which an introduction of their Edition: current; Page: [1240] principles and practice into this country, will prove dangerous to government, religion and morals.

With this view, the following strictures are offered to the American public. Freedom of discussion is a privilege enjoyed by every citizen; and it is presumed that some degree of severity will be pardoned, when it has truth for its support, and public utility for its object.


Men of all descriptions are frequently asking the questions, what will be the fate of France? What will be the consequences of the revolution in France? Will France be conquered? and others of a like nature.

These questions are extremely interesting, as they respect every thing which concerns the happiness of men in the great societies of Europe and America; government, liberty, arts, science, agriculture, commerce, morality, religion.

It would be an evidence of daring presumption to attempt to open the volume of divine determinations on these momentous questions. But it is highly proper, at all times, to exercise our reason, in examining the connection between causes and their effects; and in predicting, with modesty, the probable consequences of known events.

It is conceived to be the duty of the historian and the statesman, not merely to collect accounts of battles, the slaughter of the human race, the sacking of cities, the seizure and confiscation of shipping, and other bloody and barbarous deeds, the work of savage man towards his fellowmen; but to discover, if possible, the causes of great changes in the affairs of men; the springs of those important movements, which vary the aspect of government, the features of nations, and the very character of man.

The present efforts of the French nation, in resisting the forces of the combined powers, astonish even reflecting men. They far exceed every thing exhibited during the energetic reigns of Francis Ist. and Louis XIVth. To ascertain the true principles from which have sprung the union and the vigor which have marked this amazing revolution, is a work of no small labor, and may be of great public utility.

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jacobin society

It is conceived the first principle of combination in France, was the establishment of the Jacobin Society. The members of this association might not originally have foreseen the extent of the revolution, or the full effect of their own institution. At the time it was formed, there might have been many persons in it, who were friends to the monarchy of France, under the control of a constitution, and an elective legislative assembly. But the interest of the ancient court, the nobility and clergy was then considerable, not only in Paris, but in every department of France. It was necessary, in the view of the leaders of the republican party, to circumscribe or destroy the court-influence by direct legislative acts; or to raise throughout France, a combination of republicans, who, by union and concert, might oppose it with success. The public mind was not ripe for the first expedient, the direct invasion of the privileged orders; the republicans therefore, with a discernment that marks great talents, resorted to the last expedient, the institution of popular societies in every department of that extensive country. These societies are all moved by the mainspring of the machine, the Jacobin Society in Paris; and by the perfect concert observed in all their proceedings, they have been able to crush every other influence, and establish over France a government as singular in its kind, as it is absolute in its exercise.


In pursuance of the same principle of combination, tho not cotemporary in its adoption, was the plan of conducting both civil and military operations in all parts of the republic, by commissioners from the National Convention. It was found that, altho the Jacobin societies had a very extensive influence in seconding the views of the republican party; yet this was the influence of opinion, and private exertion merely; an influence too small and indirect, to answer every purpose. These societies were voluntary associations, unclothed with any legal authority. To conduct the intended revolution, it was necessary there should be persons, in all parts of the country, vested with full powers to execute the decrees of the convention, a majority of Edition: current; Page: [1242] whom were Jacobins; and whose measures were only the resolutions of the Jacobin Society in Paris, clothed with the sanction of a constitutional form. To supply the defect of legal authority in the several popular societies, commissioners were deputed from the convention, invested with the most absolute powers to watch over the civil and military officers employed in responsible stations, to detect conspiracies, to arrest suspected persons, and in short to control all the operations of that extensive country. These commissioners, being usually taken from the Jacobin Society at Paris, and having a constant communication with the convention, which was ruled by them, were enabled to carry all their measures into full effect. A single club, by this curious artifice, gave law to France. An immense machine, by the most extraordinary contexture of its parts, was and is still, moved by a single spring.

To unclogg this machine from all its incumbrances, and give vigor to its active operations, it was necessary to displace all its enemies. For this purpose, all suspected and disaffected persons were to be removed. Under pretence of guarding the public safety, and delivering the republic from traitors, insiduously plotting its destruction, a court was established, called the Revolutionary Tribunal, consisting of men devoted to the views of the Jacobins, and clothed with powers that made their enemies tremble. The summary jurisdiction, assumed or exercised by this tribunal, together with its executive instrument, the guilotine, have filled France with human blood, and swept away opposition.

The commissioners in the several departments and municipalities have renewed the tyranny of the decemvirs of Rome. The writer is informed that while they affect the pomp and the manners of Roman consuls, they exercise the powers of a dictator. The two commissioners at Bourdeaux, imitating as far as possible the Roman habit, ride in a car or carriage drawn by eight horses, attended by a body of guards, resembling the pretorian bands, and preceded by lictors with their battle-axes.

The authority of all the commissioners is nearly dictatorial. They arrest, try and condemn, in a most summary manner. Not only difference of opinion, but moderation and especially the possession of money, are unpardonable crimes, punishable with death, in the view of these delegates of dictatorial power.

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By this principle of combination, has a party, originally small, been enabled to triumph over all opposition.

In the mean time, a numerous and ignorant populace were to be amused, united, won to their party, and fired with enthusiasm for liberty. These people, who little understand the principles of government, were to be rendered subservient to the views of the republican party; and as their reason could be little affected by arguments, their passions were to be roused by the objects of sense. As the most of them cannot read, particular persons were employed in the towns and villages to read to them, the inflammatory writings which flowed from the Parisian presses. These readers collected the people in crowds, read to them such pieces against the king, queen, nobility and clergy, as were calculated to irritate their passions and inspire them with implacable hatred against these orders. They were taught to believe them all tyrants, traitors and oppressors. These public readers would also harrangue extemporaneously on the same subjects: such artifices had a prodigious effect in changing the attachment of the people for their king and their priesthood, to the most violent aversion. This hatred soon discovered itself in the destruction of a great number of noblemen’s chateaus; the busts of ancient kings, pictures and other ensigns of the royal government. At the same time a number of patriotic songs were composed as Ca ira, Carmagnole, and the Marseillais Hymn; which were soon spread over France, and have had a more extensive influence over the soldiers, seamen, and the peasantry of that country, in reconciling them to the hardships of war, and firing them with an enthusiasm for what they call liberty, than the world in general will believe; an influence perhaps as powerful as that of all other causes combined.

Interrupted as our intercourse is with France, and agitated as the public mind must be with passing scenes, it cannot be expected that we should obtain from that country a dispassionate and minute detail of causes and their consequences; but I believe the facts I have mentioned will go far to account for the unprecedented union of the people of France, notwithstanding the operation of the usual causes of discord, and the influence of foreign gold very liberally exerted to disunite them, and perplex their measures. It has however been necessary for the convention to resort to the terrors of the guillotine, and of death and the destruction of whole cities, to awe the spirit of opposition Edition: current; Page: [1244] to their system. Very numerous and most terrible examples of punishment have had a powerful temporary effect, in subduing their internal dissensions. How far the people will bear oppression, is a point on which we cannot decide.

national treasury

The measures taken by the convention to prolong the resistance of France, are no less singular, bold and decisive. It was found that immense sums of money would be necessary to maintain the vast body of men and military apparatus, requisite to oppose the combined forces of more than one half of Europe. To furnish the funds necessary for this purpose, the convention very early adopted the plan of issuing assignats or bills of credit, an expedient practised with great success in America, during her late revolution. This paper however was issued on safer ground than the American paper; as confiscated property to a vast amount was pledged for its redemption.

It was found however that this paper would depreciate; as the funds pledged for its redemption were exhausted, or proved inadequate to the enormous demands made upon the nation, in consequence of a great augmentation of their military establishment, after opening the last campaign. To supply the deficiency, and to put it out of the power of chance or enmity to drain the republic of its specie, the convention adopted the following desperate expedients. They exacted from moneyed men whatever specie they possessed, by way of loan. This is called emprunt force; a forced loan. And to make sure of this specie they contracted with certain bankers in Paris to advance 12 millions sterling of the money, paying them a large commission for the risk and forbearance. The amount of the specie to be thus bro’t into the national treasury, may be 20 millions sterling. This measure, together with the proceeds of confiscations, has accumulated a great proportion of the current specie of the country, in the treasury.

Not satisfied with these measures, the convention have taken possession of all the plate of the churches, which, in all Roman Catholic countries, must be very considerable, but in France, amounts to an immense value. It is estimated by gentlemen well acquainted with Edition: current; Page: [1245] this subject, that this public plate, which is carried to the mint, will amount to 25 millions sterling; a sum nearly equal to the whole current specie of that rich commercial country, England.

It was estimated by Mr. Neckar and others, just as the revolution commenced, that the current coin of France was at least 80 millions sterling; a sum equal to one third, perhaps one half, of all the specie of Europe. Allowing large sums to have been carried out of the country by emigrants, and some to be buried for safety, but taking into the account the accession of 25 millions coined from plate; and we may estimate the amount of specie in possession of the convention, to be from 60 to 70 millions sterling.

Having thus collected all the precious metals in that country, the convention, instead of using specie freely to furnish supplies for the army, expend it with great œconomy. They hold it in reserve, for times and exigencies when all other expedients fail. At present they compel every person whatever to take assignats for provision, clothing and other articles, at a certain price fixed by a valuation. They sieze whatever grain or other articles a man has, beyond an estimated supply for his own family, and pay him in paper at the stated price. In this manner they seem determined to make their paper answer every purpose as long as possible, and when this fails, they will still have specie enough at command, with the aid of some taxes, to prosecute the war for three or four years.

probable event of the war

It may be doubtful whether the body of people will long sit easy, under such severe regulations. An enthusiasm for liberty will do much; the guilotine, and an irresistable army will do more, towards preserving peace and order. But there is nothing dearer to a man than the liberty of making his own bargains; and whether the forcible means employed to procure from people their produce or manufactures, will not at least check industry and limit the exertions of laborers to a bare supply of their own wants, is a point very problematical. But whatever may be the wants of France, there is little danger, while her specie is at the command of government, that her provisions will fail. Her rich soil will furnish the principal mass of food; Edition: current; Page: [1246] and should distress call for foreign supplies, her own shipping will supply her from abroad.

If these ideas are well founded, France is able to sustain a war of many years. She can supply men enough to resist the combined powers forever. Her natural population will forever repair her annual loss of men; and the longer a war lasts, the more soldiers will she possess. The whole country will become an immense camp of disciplined veterans.

While policy, aided by the strong arm of absolute power, is thus furnishing France with the means of defence, what prospect have the combined powers of effecting their purposes? France may defend herself until England is a bankrupt, and Austria is beggared. Possibly England and Holland may sustain the war another campaign; and more than this, they unquestionably will not. The states of Italy, which have been compelled to renounce their neutrality, will yield a cold, reluctant, feeble assistance, and embrace the first favorable moment to renounce the confederacy. Portugal is nothing in the contest. Spain, it is an equal chance, will be overrun and plundered by a French army; will itself be disabled and its riches only furnish the French with additional means of defence. Prussia has gained her principal object in obtaining a large division of Poland; she now demands a considerable debt of the empire, which the diet is not well able to discharge. The empress of Russia is encouraging the controversy, while she laughs at the combination, and is adding to her dominions. Austria is powerful, but she is exhausting her resources; and by reason of the distance which great part of her supplies are to be transported, her means must fail, before those of France. Already the emperor calls for voluntary aids from his subjects in Flanders. In this situation where is the hope of conquering France!

It is more probable that France will not only resist all this force, but will retain strength sufficient to commence an offensive war, when the confederacy of her enemies shall be dissolved, and the resources of each exhausted. Her enemies will waste their strength in making France a garrison of disciplined soldiers, impregnable within, and terrible to surrounding nations. The moment the combination is broken, and the army now investing France, disabled, half a million of hardy exasperated French warriors, inured to service, and fired with victory, will be let loose upon defenceless Europe; and in their Edition: current; Page: [1247] mad enthusiasm to destroy, not despotism merely, but all the works of elegance and art, they may renew the desolations of the 6th and 7th centuries. Already has France experienced a revolution in property, in manners, in opinions, in law, in government, that has not been equalled in the world since the conquests of Attila and Genseric. The ravages of Genghis Khan, of Tamerlane and the Saracens were extensive, they were attended with slaughter and devastation. But the conquered nations only changed masters and remained unchanged themselves. The revolution in France is attended with a change of manners, opinions and institutions, infinitely more singular and important, than a change of masters or of government.

Of the two possible events, a conquest of France, and a total ultimate defeat of the combination against the republic, I am free in declaring my opinion, that the former is less probable than the latter. And should victory finally declare for France, her armies may prove formidable to Europe. Italy and the Netherlands must inevitably fall under her dominion, unless prevented by a timely pacification.

Such being the origin and progress of this astonishing revolution, let us examine its probable effects.


The effects of war upon the hostile nations are always to exhaust their strength and resources and incur heavy debts. Should France succeed in baffling her foes, an immense debt will be contracted, which must be paid, funded or expunged. An immediate payment is not to be expected; it will be impracticable. It may be justly questioned, whether the best administration of her finances will, for many years, discharge the interest. Such a general war, which involves in it a diversion of laborers from their usual occupations, a destruction of manufacturing towns and villages, a limitation of commercial intercourse, and especially a loss of capital among all descriptions of citizens, must dry up the sources of revenue, and occasion a deficiency that will materially affect the credit of the nation. If therefore the government should be disposed to fund the national debt, its inability to pay the interest, must, for some years, cause a depreciation in the value of the receipts or evidences of that debt. This depreciation will Edition: current; Page: [1248] renew the speculations of John Law’s administration—or rather the scenes exhibited in America in 1790, 1791 and 1792. Should this be the case, immense fortunes will be made; a new species of aristocrats, as they will be called, will arise out of the equality of sans-culottism, and unless a change of sentiment shall take place in the people, these new-fledged nabobs will be considered as noxious weeds in society, that are to be mown down with that political scythe, the all-levelling guillotine.

But the funding of debts is at present not an article in the national French creed. On the other hand, the revolutionists execrate the system that entails on posterity the debts of the present generation, and fills a country with negociators and stock-jobbers. If then the nation cannot pay the principal, and will not pay the interest, the remaining alternative is to expunge the whole debt.

We cannot however suppose that the same administration of the government will continue for a long period. The probability is that when danger of external foes shall be removed, the nation will elect a new convention of a very different complection. Too many good citizens will be public creditors, to suffer the debts of the nation to be wiped away with a spunge. It is more probable that efforts will be made to discharge them; and as the proceeds of confiscations will be soon exhausted, and there are no wild lands in France, the government must resort to the usual modes of raising money, by customs, and taxes, with loans or anticipations of revenue. So that after all the fine philosophy of France, she will probably be obliged to submit to some of the old schemes of finance, which her wise legislators now execrate. We have therefore no great reason to apprehend that her government will be able to expunge her debts, nor can we suppose that absolute freedom from debt will constitute a part of her promised millenium of reason and philosophy.


The important changes in the tenure of lands in France will produce the most distinguishable effects. The feudal system was calculated for no good purpose, except for defence among a barbarous people. It was every way formed to check the exertions of the great mass of Edition: current; Page: [1249] people, whose labor, in all countries, is the principal source of wealth. That must always be a bad system of tenures which deprives the laboring man of the great stimulus to industry, the prospect of enjoying the reward of his labor. Such was the feudal system throughout Europe, and it is observable that agriculture and manufactures have made slow progress in every part of Europe where that system has been suffered to prevail in its ancient vigor. The principal cities of Italy and Germany first regained their freedom and revived industry. The abolition of military tenures in England may be considered as the epoch of her wealth and prosperity. Under the old government of France, the feudal system had lost much of its severity. There were many laboring men who enjoyed small freeholds; too small however for the purpose of improving in cultivation. But two thirds of the lands were leased to the peasantry, the landlord furnishing the stock of the farm, and receiving half the produce. This mode has ever been found less beneficial to a country, than leases on fixed rents in money.

But by the late revolution, a vast proportion of the lands will change hands; and much of them become freehold estate, subject to no rent or none that shall be oppressive. The laboring people, becoming proprietors and cultivating for their own benefit, will feel all the motives to labor that can influence the human heart in that particular. The mind, unfettered and prompted to action, will exert its faculties in various kinds of improvement and when the distresses of war shall cease, the French nation will push improvements in agriculture to a length hitherto unknown in that country. Previous to this however, property must be placed under the protection of law; and the laws must receive an energy from a well-constituted executive power, that shall ensure a due execution.


The same circumstances which will invigorate industry in one branch of business, will extend their influence to every other. For some years indeed the desolating effects of war will be visible. The destruction of some manufacturing towns, the loss of capital, and the diversion of laborers from their employment, will be severely felt for many years. Edition: current; Page: [1250] But the active genius of the French nation, unfettered from the imposing prejudices of former times, when it was held degrading to engage in manual occupations, will surmount these difficulties; and the immense wealth of the emigrant nobles, the national domains, or other property which had been monopolized and sequestered from employment, under ancient institutions, will be brot into action in every branch of business. After the ravages of war shall be repaired, a greater mass of capital will be employed in useful arts, and rendered productive. All the plate of the churches, now converted into coin, and immense sums formerly squandered by a profligate nobility, or withheld from employment by cloistered monks, will be brought into circulation, and become the means of encouraging industry. Add to these circumstances, the amazing increase of enterprize, which must follow a revolution, that has awakened a nation from the slumbers of ignorance and inaction, and roused into life the dormant faculties of its citzens.


Simular circumstances will forward the growth and extension of commerce. France has long been respectable for its commerce and its navy. But the increase of agriculture and manufactures, which will necessarily follow the downfall of the feudal distinctions, and the more general diffusion of property, will produce also a correspondent increase of commerce. This commerce will require the use of shipping, and the late navigation law of France, will recal to her some of the advantages of the carrying trade, heretofore enjoyed by the English and the Dutch, and be the means of augmenting her navy.

arts and science

Free governments are the soil best fitted to produce improvements in the arts and sciences. All history testifies this. France indeed, under her old government, had been distinguished for a cultivation of the sciences, and many of the most useful and elegant arts. In many respects, Edition: current; Page: [1251] the lover of philosophy was free, and full scope was given to human genius. In other respects, freedom of writing was restrained by the hand of power, and the bold writers of that nation were compelled to retire beyond the reach of it.

The universal freedom of writing, which we may expect to prevail, when the present storm subsides, will be among the most conspicuous blessings of that nation. The arts will receive new encouragement, and the sciences new luster, from the active genius of renovated France.


The progress of the revolution in France, with respect to morals and the religion of the nation, affords a most interesting spectacle to reflecting men. The hierarchy of Rome had established, over the minds of its votaries, a system of errors and superstition, that enslaved their opinions and plundered their purses. Long had nations been the victims of papal domination, and spiritual impositions. Accustomed from childhood to count their beads, to bow to the host, and chant te deum, men supposed that ceremony was devotion; while an artful priesthood availed themselves of their weakness and errors, to spunge from the deluded multitude, a great portion of the fruits of their honest labor.

For three centuries past, the reason of man has been removing the veil of error from his mind. In some countries, the veil has been rent asunder: and human reason, aided and directed by revelation, has assumed its native dignity. But in France, science and education, while they had illuminated a portion of its inhabitants, had not dissipated the gloom that was spread over the mass of the nation. Inquisitive men had searched for truth, and astonished at the monstrous absurdities of the national religion, their minds, starting from the extreme of superstition, vibrated to the extreme of scepticism. Because they found religion, clothed with a garb of fantastical human artifices, they rejected her as a creature of human invention, pronounced her ceremonies a farce, and derided her votaries. Hence sprung a race of literary men, denominated philosophers, who, under their illustrious Edition: current; Page: [1252] champions, Voltaire, and Rousseau, attempted, by secret undermining or open assault, to demolish the whole fabric of the national religion, and to erect upon its ruins, the throne of reason.

Before the present revolution commenced, this philosophy had spread among the literati of France; and Paris exhibited then, what Italy does now, the two most irreconcileable extremes, of atheism and profound superstition; the most scandalous vices mingled with the most scrupulous observance of religious rites; the same persons retiring immediately from their mock-devotions at Notre Dame, to the revels of prostitution.

In this situation of the moral and religious character of the French nation, began the revolution of 1789. The philosophical researches of Voltaire, Rousseau and the Abbe Raynal, had long before unchained the minds of that part of the French nation who read; a respectable class of men. These men understood the errors of their government and the nature of liberty. They were prepared to second the operation of those political causes, which hastened the crisis of a revolution. The first attentions of the reformers were occupied with the correction of political evils, rather than those of religion. But when the first national assembly came to examine the system of their government with minute inspection, they found it a complicated machine, in which the ecclesiastical state was so interwoven with the political, that it would be impossible to retrench the corruptions of the one, without deranging the whole fabric. It became neccessary therefore (and the philosopher rejoiced at the neccessity) to take down the whole machine of despotism, involving all the privileged orders in the proposed renovation.

The first assembly proceeded as far as they durst, in laying their hands upon the immense possessions of the clergy, and abolishing the monastic institutions; making provision, at the same time, for maintaining the clergy by granting them annual salaries, suited to their former ranks in the church. This step was bold, and gave umbrage to many of the higher dignitaries. But as the assembly had the policy to augment the salaries of most of the inferior clergy, the curates or vicars, who were the most numerous body, and had most influence over the people, this measure insted of endangering, rather strengthened the cause of the revolution.

Upon the election of the second assembly, a new scene was to be Edition: current; Page: [1253] presented. A party of violent republicans, not satisfied with the constitution of 1791, and resolved to exterminate monarchy, and with it all the privileged orders, after a violent contest with their adversaries, the Fuillans, in which the latter were defeated, assumed the government of France; and from the full establishment of the Jacobins, with a decided majority in the convention, we date many important changes in the customs and institutions of that country. The progress of these changes in detail is left for the historian: my limits confining me to sketches only of these great events. In general, however, I may observe, that the ruling party in France, have waged an inveterate war with christianity; and have endeavored to efface all the monuments by which it has been perpetuated. They have abolished not only the sabbath, by substituting one day in ten as a day of rest and amusement in lieu of one day in seven; but they have changed the mode of reckoning time, substituting the foundation of the republic as the vulgar era, instead of the christian era. They have not indeed prohibited any man from believing what religion he pleases: but as far as their decrees can reach, they have established, not deism only, but atheism and materialism. For these assertions I have their own decrees. In their decree respecting burials, they say, they “acknowlege no other doctrine, except that of national sovereignty and omnipotence.” If I understand this, it denies the being of a God. They ordain, that deceased persons shall be carried to the place of burial, covered with a pall, on which shall be depicted sleep, under the shade of the trees in the field, a statue shall be erected, representing sleep—and on the gate of the field, this inscription—“death is an everlasting sleep.” This is an explicit denial of the immortality of the soul, and in effect the establishment of materialism by law.

The church of Notre Dame is converted into the temple of reason; a colossal monument is erected in honor of the day, when reason triumphed over what they call fanaticism; and festivals are ordained to celebrate the memorable epoches of important changes in the government and religion of France. A great number of the clergy have publicly renounced their profession declaring their belief that their ancient religion was superstition and error, and that the only true religion is the practice of justice and moral virtue.

This account of the proceedings in France exhibits, in a luminous point of view, the singular contexture of the human mind; now depressed Edition: current; Page: [1254] with chimerical horrors; demons, ghosts, and a God in terrors, armed with vengeance, and hurling nine tenths of mankind to the bottomless pit; now, elevated on the pinions of a subtle philosophy, men soar above all these bug-bears; revelation, piety, immortality, and all the christians hopes are rejected as phantoms; the Supreme Jehovah is reasoned or ridiculed out of existence, and in his place is substituted the omnipotence of national sovereignty.

Vain men! idle philosophy! I will not attempt to expatiate on the pernicious effects of such mistaken and misdirected reason. A sorrowful prediction of woes that must fall upon the nation, thus set afloat on the wide ocean of doubt, and tossed between the ancient hopes of immortality, and the modern legislative assurance of everlasting sleep in annihilation, would be derided as the cant of bigotry; the whining lamentations of interested priest-craft. But I will meet your philosophy upon your own ground; and demonstrate, by the very decrees which demolish the ancient superstition, that you yourselves are the most bigotted men in existence.

It is the remark of a great philosopher, whose opinions I am sure you will respect, that the mind of man is subject to certain unaccountable terrors and apprehensions, proceeding from an unhappy situation of affairs, from ill health, or a melancholy disposition. This is the origin of superstition and priestcraft. The mind of man is also susceptible of an unaccountable elevation and presumption, arising from success, luxuriant health, strong spirits, or a bold confident disposition. This is the source of enthusiasm. Hume’s Essays, Vol. I. 75.

I will not controvert this explanation of the two most remarkable principles in the mind. Nor will I wholly deny the conclusion he draws, that superstition is most favorable to slavery, and enthusiasm, to liberty. But I will go farther in this question than he did, and farther than you will at first admit to be just—but it is a position warranted by all history and perpetual observation, that if superstition and enthusiasm are not essentially the same thing, they at least produce effects, in many respects, exactly similar. They always lead men into error.

Superstition and enthusiasm operate by different means and direct the mind to different objects; but they agree in this respect, they imply or produce an excessive improper attachment to certain objects, Edition: current; Page: [1255] usually objects of little real consequence. They are equally the humble votaries of some deity, tho each has a different one and worships him in her own peculiar mode. From the only regular body of deists in the universe, as Mr. Hume calls the disciples of Confucius; from the exalted philosophers of Greece and Rome, Plato, Pythagoras and Cicero: or from the still more refined philosophers, the noble disciples of reason, the members of the National Convention of France, down to the lowest bigot that drones out a lifeless existence over his beads and his crucifix in some dark monastic cell, there is one single principle of the human mind operating steadily to produce these different characters: this principle is a strong, universal and irresistable disposition to attach itself to some object or some system of belief which shall be a kind of idol to be worshipped in preference to all others. The object only is varied; the principle eternally the same. The principle springs from the passions of the mind, and cannot be annihilated without extinguishing the passions; which is impossible. When a gloomy mind clings to its priest or its altars, it is called superstition. When a bold mind, and ardent spirits rise above grovelling objects, and embrace spiritual delights, with raptures and transports, it is called enthusiasm or fanaticism. When a long series of reflection and reasoning has cooled or moderated the passions, the mind is governed less by feeling and more by argument; the errors of superstition and enthusiasm are perceived and despised; the mind fixes itself upon a theory of imaginary truth, between the extremes of error; and this is pronounced reason and philosophy. That this reason is not truth itself nor an infallible standard of truth, is obvious: for no two men agree what it is, what its nature, extent or limits. No matter; superstition and enthusiasm are beat down; reason is exalted upon a throne, temples are erected to the goddess, and festivals instituted to celebrate her coronation. Then begins the reign of passion; the moment reason is seated upon her throne; the passions are called in to support her. Pride says[:] I have trampled down superstition, that foe to truth and happiness—I have exalted reason to the throne; I am right—every thing else is wrong. Obey the goddess reason, is the great command: and woe to the man that rejects her authority. Reason is indeed the nominal prince, but the passions are her ministers, and dictate her decrees. Thus what begins in calm philosophy, ends in a most superstitious attachment to a particular object of its own Edition: current; Page: [1256] creation. The goddess reason is at last maintained by pride, obstinacy, bigotry and to use a correct phrase, a blind superstitious enthusiasm.

The history of men is one tissue of facts, confirmatory of their observations. The Egyptians adored certain animals; and to injure a cat in Egypt, was a crime no less enormous than to pull down a liberty cap, to use the christian era, or wear abroad the robes of a priest in France; it was sacrilege. When we are told by credible historians that the Egyptians, when a house was on fire took more pains to save the cats, than the house, we stare and wonder how men could ever be so weak and stupid as to regard a cat, as a sacred animal. But is not the cap of liberty now regarded with a similar veneration? Would not an insult offered to it be resented and call down the vengeance of its votaries? How is this? Why the answer is easy—the Egyptians venerated a cat and a cow, and our modern idolaters venerate a liberty cap. The passion of the Egyptians will be called superstition perhaps; the passion of our people, enthusiasm. But it is the object that is changed, and not the principle. Our people are perpetually exclaiming “Liberty is the goddess we adore,” and a cap is the emblem of this goddess. Yet in fact there is no more connection between liberty and a cap, than between the Egyptian deity Isis, and just notions of God; nor is it less an act of superstition to dance round a cap or a pole in honor of liberty, than it was in Egypt to sacrifice a bullock to Isis.

The Greeks were a learned nation: but they had their Delphic oracles, whose responses were regarded as inspiration. The Romans, were more superstitious, and were governed in public and private affairs, by the appearances of the entrails of beasts, the flight of birds, and other omens. Both these nations were superstitious; that is, they believed their fate to be connected with certain religious rites; they placed confidence in certain supposed deities or events; when in fact there was no connection at all between the cause and effect, but what existed in opinion. The Pythian god in Greece knew nothing of future events; the auspices in Rome had no connection with the fate of those who consulted them, but the people believed in these consultations, and according to the result, were inspired with confidence or depressed with apprehensions. There were philosophers indeed in those enlightened nations who rejected the authority of their divinities. Cicero says, in his days, the Delphic oracle had become contemptible. Edition: current; Page: [1257] Demosthenes declared publicly, the oracle had been gained over to the interest of Philip. These and many others were the deists of Greece and Rome; the Humes and Voltaires of antiquity. But they never had the courage or the inclination to abolish the religion of their countrymen—they treated the fabled divinities of their country with more respect than the Jacobin club has paid to the founder of christianity. At the same time, while they indulged their fellow citizens in their own worship, they wrought out of their own imagination, some airy deity; some fine subtle theory of philosophy, which they adored with the superstition of bigots. It is idle, it is false that these philosophers had refined their ideas above all error and fanaticism—they soared above the absurdities of material deities, the lares and penates of the vulgar; but they framed etherial divinities, and spent their lives in paying homage to these fictions of imaginations.

In short the only advantage they had over vulgar minds was, that common people were content to worship the gods of the country, already framed to their hands; while the pride of each philosopher was busy in creating deities suited to his particular fancy.

When christianity became the religion of Rome, many of the pagan rites were incorporated, and some of the temples and deities, brot into use in the christian religion. The use of incense or perfumes, holy water, lamps, and votive offerings in churches, are pagan ceremonies retained in the Romish church. In lieu of the images of heathen deities Jupiter, Hercules or Bacchus, the christians substituted the statues of saints, martyrs and heroes; or else preserved the old images, giving them only a different dress. The pantheon of ancient Rome was re-consecrated by Boniface IVth, to the Virgin Mary, and all the saints.

What is all this? the christians pretended to abolish and exterminate pagan superstition—they only changed the name, and the objects to which veneration was to be paid. Instead of worshipping and sacrificing to Bacchus, the new converts adored the figure of a saint.

The Romans had a celebrated festival, called Saturnalia in honor of Saturn; this festival found its way into antient Scandinavia, among our pagan ancestors, by whom it was new-modelled or corrupted, being kept at the winter solstice. The night on which it was kept was called mother-night, as that which produced all the rest; and the festival Edition: current; Page: [1258] was called Iuule or Yule. The christians, not being able to abolish the feast, changed its object, gave it the name of Christmas, and kept it in honor of Jesus Christ, altho the ancient name yule was retained in some parts of Scotland, till within a century. Mallet North Antiq. Vol. I. 130, Cowel. voc. Yule. What is the deduction from these facts? This certainly, that men have uniformly had a high veneration for some person or deity real or imaginary: the Romans for Saturn: the Goths for the mother-night of the year; and the christians for the founder of their religion. The christians have the advantage over the pagans in appropriating the feast to a nobler object; but the passion is the same, and the joy, the feasting, and the presents that have marked the festival are nearly the same among pagans and christians.

Let us then see whether the national convention of France have succeeded in exterminating superstition and fanaticism; and with them, their offspring, persecution.

They have indeed abolished the christian sabbath, because it was one of the institutions of superstition and the support of error, bigotry and priestcraft. But with the absurdity and inconsistency that ever accompanies fanaticism, they have established a similar institution, under a different name; instead of a christian sabbath once in seven days, they have ordained a political sabbath once in ten days. The object only is changed, while the uses of such a day are acknowledged by the convention themselves: and in spite of their omnipotence, the nation will appropriate that or some other day to nearly the same purposes.

They have abolished the christian era, and substituted the epoch of the abolition of monarchy, or what is the same thing, the foundation of the republic. And what do they gain by this change? Merely the trouble of introducing confusion and perplexity into their own mode of reckoning time, during the present generation, and into their negociations with other powers, forever. The era itself is a thing of no kind of consequence; it is not of the value of a straw; but when this indifferent thing is established, as a common point of reckoning time, among a great number of surrounding nations, it becomes of great moment, and the change of it marks a contempt of common utility and a superstitious regard to the period of the revolution, or rather the era of their own triumph over their opposers, that is equal to the Edition: current; Page: [1259] ancient respect for the Delphic oracle, or the modern veneration for a papal bull. The object only is changed; the passion is the same.

They have also annihilated the national worship, and of course a great number of holidays. But they have decreed a most magnificent and splendid festival, to be celebrated once in four years, in honor of the republic. What is this but a superstitious veneration for a new era, instead of the old ones? But what is singular in this institution is, that it is professedly copied from the celebration of the Olympic games in Greece. What then is become of the convention’s reason and philosophy, which was to buoy them above vulgar prejudices? Do they, in this instance, exhibit proofs of exalted reason? Is it less a prejudice to venerate the Greek Olympiads, than the christian sabbath, or christian era? Let Danton and Robespiere answer this question, or blush for their philosophy.

The convention have also rejected the national faith, and sanctioned, with a decree, the doctrines of deism and materialism. This is another sublime effort of their Grecian philosophy to annihilate superstition and bigotry. But in the moment they are shunning Scylla, they are shipwrecked on Charybdis. It was not sufficient to destroy one faith; but they proceeded to establish another. They erect a statue to sleep, and on the gates of their burying fields, ordain this inscription, “Death is an everlasting sleep.” Laugh not, ye refined sages, at the poor ignorant Greeks, who, lost and bewildered in the mazes of doubt, with more honesty than yourselves, acknowledged their ignorance, and erected an altar to the unknown god. St. Paul informed that venerable body of sages, the Athenian Areopagus, that this was superstition; yet the inscription on the altar at Athens, and that on the gates of the burying places in France, proceeded from equal ignorance, and the devotion paid to the statue of sleep will be as blind, as head-strong, and as marked with superstition, as the worship of the unknown god in Athens.

The convention, in their zeal for equalizing men, have with all their exalted reason, condescended to the puerility of legislating even upon names. That they should abolish titles of distinction, together with the privileges of the nobility and clergy, was natural; but that the common titles of mere civility and respect should be attacked was astonishing to indifferent spectators, who had expected their proceedings Edition: current; Page: [1260] to be marked with dignity. The vulgar titles of address, monsieur and madame, whatever might have been their original sense, had become mere names of civility, implying no distinction, and applied equally to all classes of people. They were literally terms of equality; for when A addressed B with the appellation, Monsieur, B answered him with the same address; denoting an equality of standing and a mutuality of respect.

Yet these harmless titles, which had no more connection with government, than the chattering of birds, became the subject of grave legislative discussion, and the use of them was formally abolished. And what did the convention substitute in their place? Why the awkward term citizen, which is in fact a title of distinction, denoting a man who is free of a city, and enjoys rights distinct from his fellow inhabitants; or at least one that has a legal residence in a country, and in consequence of it, enjoys some rights or privileges, that are not common to all its people. In proof of this I need only suggest, that in the United States and I believe in all other countries, certainly in France, legal provision is made for acquiring the rights of citizenship.* Reflect, ye philosophic legislators, and be ashamed of your contradictions.

The convention have also abolished the insignia of rank, civil and ecclesiastical. Even a priest cannot wear his robes, except in the temples. But it was not sufficient to reduce all ancient orders; they established another distinction, which was represented by the cockade of liberty. Enthusiasm had only taken down one order, to put up another; and no sooner was the order of liberty instituted, than its members assumed an arrogant imperious behavior: they esteemed themselves better than their fellow-citizens; the cockade became a badge of despotism; every one who would not join the order, and go to every excess in their measures, was denounced as a traitor, and a man must wear the national cockade, or be massacred. Yet there is not the smallest connection between a cockade and liberty, except what exists in the fanaticism of the order. It is superstition of the Edition: current; Page: [1261] rankest kind; and precisely of the same nature as that which fired millions of bigots to rally under the banners of the cross, in the 12th and 13th centuries, and march, under Peter the hermit, to recover the holy land from infidels. The cross in one case had the same effect in inspiring enthusiasm, that a cockade has in the other. Peter the hermit, and the Jacobins of France equally acknowledged the principles and the passions of the human heart. To accomplish their purposes they made use of the same means; they addressed themselves to the passions of the multitude, and wrought them up into enthusiasm.

To complete the system of reason which is to prevail in France, in lieu of ancient errors and absurdities, all the statues of kings and queens, together with busts, medalions, and every ensign of royalty, nobility or priesthood, are ordered to be annihilated. Even the statue of Henry IVth on the new bridge; a monument erected to the most patriotic prince that ever graced the royal diadem; who had projected a plan of universal peace in Europe, and who, had he not fallen prematurely by the hand of an assassin, would perhaps have done more for the happiness of society, than all the philosophers France ever produced; even his statue could not escape the philosophic rage for innovation. The statue is annihilated, and in its place, at the motion of David the painter, a colossal monument is decreed to be raised on the bridge, to transmit to posterity the victory of nations over kings, and of reason over fanaticism. Yes, philosophers, a noble victory this! But you forget that this very decree is the height of political fanaticism. The monument is changed with the object of fanaticism; and this is all the difference between you and the admirers of Henry IVth who erected the statue which you have demolished.

Marat also has a monument erected to his memory, in the pantheon! And who was Marat? A Prussian by birth; by profession, a journalist, who lived by publishing libels on the moderate men who opposed the Jacobin Club: by nature, a bloodthirsty wretch, the instigator of massacres, whose cruelty and baseness inspired a woman with courage to assassinate him. To such a pitch has the fanaticism of these philosophers carried them in this instance, that they have actually dispensed with the decree which denies the honors of the pantheon to patriots, until they have been dead ten years, and in favor of his extraordinary merits, Marat was deified a few months after his death.

The refined imitators of the Greek philosophers have gone beyond Edition: current; Page: [1262] their predecessors, in a stupid veneration for departed heroes; and if the present fanaticism should continue a few years, they will fill their new pantheon, with canonized Jacobins.

The same blind devotion to every thing ancient has led these superstitious reformers into the most ridiculous changes of names. Church is a relic of christian bigotry—the name therefore is rejected and in its place, the Latin word temple is substituted. This in France is philosophical! But what is more extraordinary, is, that in the moment when the modern calendar was abolished, and new divisions of time instituted, and even the harmless names of the months changed because the old calendar was the work of a pope and a relict of priestcraft: nay, at the time these wise and sublime reformers were abolishing, not only superstition, but even a belief in any superior being; they themselves sequestered a building for the express purpose of immortalizing men, and even gave it the Grecian name, Pantheon, which signifies the habitation of all the Gods. Such perpetual contradictions, such a series of puerile innovations, are without a parrallel in the history of revolutions: and while these regenerators of a great nation believe themselves the devotees of reason and philosophy and exult in their supereminent attainments, they appear to the surrounding world of indifferent spectators, as weak, as blind and as fanatical, as a caravan of Mahometan pilgrims, wading thro immense deserts of suffocating sands, to pay their respects to the tomb of the Prophet.

It is remarkable also, that with professions of the most boundless liberality of sentiment, and with an utter abhorrence of bigotry and tyranny, these philosophers have become the most implacable persecutors of opinion. They despise all religious opinions; they are indifferent what worship is adopted by individuals; at the same time, they are establishing atheism by law. They reject one system to enforce another. This is not all; they pursue with unrelenting cruelty, all who differ from them on political subjects. The friends of a limited monarchy, to the constitution of 1791, to a federal government, however honest, fair and candid, all fall before the Jacobins. The Marquis La Fayette, that unimpeachable hero and patriot, fell a sacrifice to his integrity. He had sworn to maintain the constitution of 1791—he respected his oath—and was driven into exile and a dungeon. The Jacobins also swore to maintain that constitution—they perjured themselves—and now rule triumphant. Dumourier, the ablest general Edition: current; Page: [1263] that has figured in France this century, after a series of unexampled victories, fell a sacrifice to Jacobin jealousy. The moment the Jacobin club felt their superiority, they commenced tyrants and persecutors; and from the execution of Mr. Delassart, the first victim of their vengeance, to that of Mr. Brissot and his adherents, a series of persecution for mere difference of opinion has been exhibited in France, that has never before been equalled. The Jacobins differ from the clergy of the dark ages in this—the clergy persecuted for heresy in religion—the Jacobins, for heresy in politics. The ruling faction is always orthodox—the minority always heterodox. Totally immaterial is it, what is the subject of controversy; or in what age or country the parties live. The object may change, but the imperious spirit of triumphant faction is always the same. It is only to revive the stale plea of necessity; the state or the church is in danger from opinions; then the rack, the stake or the guillotine must crush the heresy—the heretics must be exterminated.

It was the language of the pagan emperors who persecuted the christians; “these sectaries must be destroyed—their doctrines are fatal to our power.” It was the language of the popes and cardinals, who instigated the persecution of the Hussites, Wickliffites, Lutherans and Calvinists; “these reformers are heretics who are dangerous to the true church, they must be destroyed; their doctrines must be exterminated; it is the cause of God.” It is the same language, which the barbarous followers of Mahomet employed and still employ to justify the enslaving of christians. The same is the language of the British acts of Parliament which lay all dissenters from the established church, under severe restraints and disabilities. It is the present language of the court of inquisition in Spain and Portugal—it is the language of the Jacobin faction in France, with the change only of the word liberty for church. The mountain exclaim, “liberty is in danger from traitors.” But when we examin the proofs, nothing appears to warrant the charge, but the single circumstance that these dangerous men belonged to another party; they were acknowledged republicans, but differed in opinion, as to the precise form of government, best calculated to secure liberty. Yet being Girondists, another party, they are wrong; they are dangerous; they must be exterminated. This is merely the result of faction; for it is now, and probably will forever remain a mere speculative point, whether Danton or Brissot was Edition: current; Page: [1264] right; that is, whether a federal or an indivisible republic is the best form of government for France. But power and not argument or experience, has decided the question for the present. It is the precise mode in which the Roman emperors decided christianity to be dangerous—the precise mode in which the Chinese emperors reasoned to justify the expulsion of christians from their dominions; and a mode which a violent ruling faction always employs to silence opposition. As a temporary measure, it is always effectual: But I will venture to affirm, that such vindictive remedies for political and religious contentions are, in every instance, unwarrantable. In religious affairs, they proceed from bigotry, or a blind zeal for a particular creed. In political contests, an indiscriminate denunciation of opposers, and the infliction of death upon slight evidence, or mere suspicion can proceed only from savage hearts, or the mad rancor of party and faction.


However necessary might be the revolution in France, and however noble the object, such great changes and a long war will have an effect on the moral character of the nation, which is deeply to be deplored. All wars have, if I may use a new but emphatic word, a demoralizing tendency; but the revolution in France, in addition to the usual influence of war, is attended with a total change in the minds of the people. They are released, not only from the ordinary restraints of law, but from all their former habits of thinking. From the fetters of a debasing religious system, the people are let loose in the wide field of mental licentiousness; and as men naturally run from one extreme to another, the French will probably rush into the wildest vagaries of opinion, both in their political and moral creeds. The decree of the convention authorizing divorces, upon the application of either party, alleging only unsuitableness of temper, hereby offering allurements to infidelity and domestic broils, is a singular proof of the little regard in which the morals of the nation are held by the ruling party. The efforts made by the convention to exterminate every thing that looks like imposing restraint upon the passions, by the fear of a supreme being and future punishments, are a most extraordinary experiment in government, to ascertain whether nations Edition: current; Page: [1265] can exist in peace, order and harmony, without any such restraints. It is an experiment to prove that impressions of a supreme being and a divine providence, which men have hitherto considered as natural, are all the illusions of imagination; the effect of a wrong education. It is an experiment to try whether atheism and materialism, as articles of national creed, will not render men more happy in society than a belief in a God, a Providence and the Immortality of the soul. The experiment is new; it is bold; it is astonishing.

In respect to manners also the effects of the war in France must be deplorable. War, carried on between foreign nations, on the most humane principles, has a powerful tendency to decivilize those who are immediately concerned in it. It lets loose the malignant passions of hatred and revenge, which in time of peace, are laid under the restraints of law and good breeding. But in addition to the ordinary decivilizing tendency of war, the present contest in France is carried on with the implacable fury of domestic rage, and the barbarity of assassination. Hostilities have raged in almost every part of that extensive republic, and have been inflamed by faction, insurrection and treason. The Parisians, aided by the Marsellois, massacred thousands on the 10th of August, and 2d and 3d September 1792; and great part of the victims of popular fury fell, merely because they were suspected, without the slightest proof of guilt. The like scenes were exhibited on a smaller scale, at Lyons, and in some other parts of the country. The summary vengence taken on the insurgents in various parts, and especially on the rebels at Lyons and Toulon, must have accustomed great bodies of people to scenes of cruelty, and rendered them unfeeling towards their enemies. But the sanguinary executions of persons condemned by the revolutionary tribunals, at Paris, and in various cities of France, must have rendered the populace extremely ferocious. In many of the calamitous proceedings of the triumphant party in France, there has been displayed a rancor of malice and cruelty, that reminds us of savages: and we can scarcely believe these things done by a nation unquestionably the most polite in the world. The facts however cannot be denied; and they illustrate my remarks, as to the effects of war on the moral character of men.

If these remarks then are just, it is to be supposed that the French nation, will for a few years, be so ferocious and licentious, as to render it extremely difficult to reduce them to a subordination to law. Edition: current; Page: [1266] The virulence of party we know in America; but in France, the spirits of men are still more exasperated against each other; and party-rage will not, for a long time, be repressed, without frequent bloodshed. If the odious distinction of whig and tory, still exists in America, and frequently calls forth abuse; how much more will party spirit prevail in France, during the present generation!

It then naturally occurs as a question, what will be the consequences of the abolition of christianity, or the national worship of France?

The general answer appears to me not difficult—atheism and the most detestable principles will be the fashion of the present age; but peace, education, and returning reason will at length prevail over the wild ideas of the present race of philosophers, and the nation will embrace a rational religion.

The nation is now so totally demoralized by the current philosophy of the age, and the ferocious spirit of war and faction, that atheism is a creed perhaps most adapted to the blind and headstrong genius of the present generation. But I am yet one of the old fashioned philosophers, who believe that, however particular men under particular circumstances may reject all ideas of God and religion, yet that some impressions of a Supreme Being are as natural to men, as their passions and their appetites, and that nations will have some God to adore and some mode of worship. I believe some future legislature of France will be obliged to tread back some of the steps of the present convention, with respect to the establishment of a chimerical reason in lieu of religion.


I am of the same opinion respecting their constitution of government. France cannot enjoy peace or liberty, without a government, much more energetic than the present constitution would be, without the aid of danger without and a guillotine within. The moment France is freed from external foes, and is left to itself, it will feel the imbecillity of its government. France now resembles a man under the operation of spasms, who is capable of exerting an astonishing degree of unnatural muscular force; but when the paroxism subsides, languor and Edition: current; Page: [1267] debility will succeed. This observation applies to its political force; and when the war shall cease, the military will be strong, while the civil power is weak. The consequences of disbanding half a million of soldiers at once, I will not attempt to predict. Should any dissatisfaction prevail in the army at the moment of peace, on account of pay, provisions, or any other cause, the nation will have to contend with more formidable foes, than the military machines of Austria and Prussia. Great caution and policy will be necessary in dispersing such a number of soldiers and bringing them back to habits of industry and order.

The seeds of faction, that enemy of government and freedom, are sown thick in the present constitution of France. The Executive Council, to be composed of twenty-four members, will be a hot-bed of party; and party spirit is violent, malignant and tyrannical. The French could not have fallen upon a more effectual expedient to create and perpetuate faction, with its train of fatal evils, than to commit the execution of the laws to a number of hands; for faction is death to liberty.

The Republic of France is to keep an army in pay, in time of peace as well as war. This army will always be at the command of the executive. When the minister at war is a man of talents and a wicked heart, he may make use of the army for the purposes of crushing his competitors. A standing army in America is considered as an engine of despotism; and however necessary it may be in the present state of Europe, it will or may prove dangerous to the freedom of France.


Let it not be thought that the writer of these sheets is an enemy to liberty or a republican government. Such an opinion is wholly unfounded. The writer is a native American; born in an independant republic. He imbibed a love of liberty with his first ideas of government; he fought for the independance of his country; he wishes to see republican governments established over the earth, upon the ruins of despotism. He has not however imbibed the modern philosophy, that rejects all ancient institutions, civil, social and religious, as the impositions of fraud; the tyranny of cunning over ignorance, and of power Edition: current; Page: [1268] over weakness. He is not yet convinced that men are capable of such perfection on earth, as to regulate all their actions by moral rectitude, without the restraints of religion and law. He does not believe with the French atheist, that the universe is composed solely of matter and motion, without a Supreme Intelligence; nor that man is solely the creature of education. He believes that God, and not education, gives man his passions; and that the business of education is to restrain and direct the passions to the purposes of social happiness. He believes that man will always have passions—that these passions will frequently urge him into vices—that religion has an excellent effect in repressing vices, in softening the manners of men, and consoling them under the pressure of calamities. He believes in short that, notwithstanding all the fine philosophy of the modern reformers, that a great part of mankind, necessitated to labor, and unaccustomed to read, or to the civilities of refined life, will have rough passions, that will always require the corrective force of law, to prevent them from violating the rights of others; of course, he believes government is necessary in society: and that to render every man free, there must be energy enough in the executive, to restrain any man and any body of men from injuring the person or property of any individual in the society. But as many of the preceding remarks appear to be a severe reprehension of the ruling party in France, it is necessary to explain myself more freely on this subject.

The cause of the French nation is the noblest ever undertaken by men. It was necessary; it was just. The feudal and the papal systems were tyrannical in the extreme; they fettered and debased the mind; they enslaved a great portion of Europe. While the legislators of France confined themselves to a correction of real evils, they were the most respectable of reformers: they commanded the attention, the applause and the admiration of surrounding nations. But when they descended to legislate upon names, opinions and customs, that could have no influence upon liberty or social rights, they became contemptible; and when faction took the lead, when a difference of opinion on the form of government proper for France, or a mere adherence to a solemn oath, became high treason punishable with death, the triumphant faction inspired even the friends of the revolution, with disgust and horror. Liberty is the cry of these men, while with the grimace of a Cromwell, they deprive every man who will Edition: current; Page: [1269] not go all the lengths of their rash measures, of both liberty and life. A free republic, is their perpetual cant; yet to establish their own ideas of this free government, they have formed and now exercise throughout France a military aristocracy, the most bloody and despotic recorded in history.

But, say the friends of the Jacobins, “this severity is absolutely necessary to accomplish the revolution.” No this is not the truth. It is necessary to accomplish the views of the Jacobins; but a revolution was effected before the Jacobins had formed themselves into a consistent body, and assumed the sovereign sway. This first revolution did not proceed far enough in changes of old institutions to satisfy the atheistical part of the new convention. The first constitution had abolished the distinction of orders—it had stripped the nobles and clergy of their titles and rank—it had stripped the church of her possessions—it had taken almost all power from the king—but it had left untouched the two relics of monarchy most odious to little minds, the name of king and his hereditary descent. This furnished the violent members of the convention with a pretext for a further reform, in which, not royalty alone, for this is a matter of little consequence, but even the customary modes of speech, and the sublime truths of christianity, have fallen equally a prey to the regenerating enthusiasm of these profound philosophers.

What had liberty and the rights of men to do with this second revolution? If, on experiment, it had been found that the limited monarchy of the first constitution, which except its civil list, had scarcely the powers of the executive of the United States, was productive of real evils and real danger to the freedom of the government, the nation would have seen the danger, and by general consent, in a peaceable manner, and without the violence of party rage, monarchy would have been abolished. The progress of reason, information and just notions of government was ripening the nation fast for an event of this kind.

But admit what the Jacobins will say, that there was a necessity for removing the king; that he was a traitor, and a plot was forming to replace the monarchy with all its prerogatives; and that there is a foundation for a suspicion of this kind, no man can doubt; yet what shall we say to the trial and condemnation of the Brissotines? Brissot, Le Brun and their followers were the more moderate party, but unquestionably Edition: current; Page: [1270] republicans. So far as evidence against them has appeared in the trials published, there is not an iota of proof to warrant the charge of treason. Their great crime was, they were federalists—they believed so extensive a country as France, would be best governed by a constitution similar to that of America, each department* having a local legislature to regulate the interior police of the department, and all the departments confederated under a general government for the purpose of regulating the great concerns of the nation. Whether right or wrong, this was a mere question of speculation; and Brissot had precisely the same right to plan, to urge, and if possible, to establish his system, as Danton and Robespiere had to establish theirs. Each had the same rights, the same freedom of debate (or ought to have had) the same privilege of proposing forms of government, and the inviolability of the legislative character ought to have afforded to each the same protection. The outrages committed upon this inviolability are the work of detestable faction, that scourge of almost every free government, and the disgrace of the French Revolution. The Brissotines were charged with “conspiring against the unity and indivisibility of the republic”; that is, against a theoretical form of government; and all the other charges appear to be invented by the malice of party, as they are not supported by any credible proof whatever. But let us go farther and admit, what is probably not true, that all these sacrifices were necessary; what shall we say to the impious attempts to exterminate every part of the christian religion, and substitute Grecian philosophy and atheism as a nation creed? Is this also necessary to maintain liberty and a free government? What shall we say to the legislature of a great nation, waging a serious war with mere names, pictures, dress and statues? Is this also necessary to the support of liberty? There is something in this part of their legislative proceedings that unites the littleness of boys, with the barbarity of Goths.

Let us then separate the men from the cause; and while we detest the instrument, let us admire and applaud the end to be accomplished. We see roses growing among thorns, and we know a Judas, in betraying his Lord, was a vile instrument of man’s redemption. I Edition: current; Page: [1271] am an old fashioned believer in a divine intelligence, that superintends the affairs of this world, always producing order out of confusion. So far as the experience of three thousand years, and the present knowledge of men, will furnish data for reasoning on political subjects, we may safely conclude that the affairs of France are in a state of vacillation, moving from extreme to extreme by the impulse of violent causes: and that in a few years those causes will be removed, the vibration will cease, and the legislature, tracing back some of the steps of their predecessors, will take the middle path in government, religion and morals which has ever been found practicable and safe. In medio tutissimus ibis, is a maxim that never yet deceived the man, the legislator or the philosopher. Monarchy can never be restored in France, until the people are exterminated. A republican government in some shape or other, will maintain its ground; and I trust and hope, the defeat of the combined powers will teach them the observance of the law of nations, “that one power has no right to interfere with the government of its neighbor.”

I would only suggest further that the present war is weakening the feudal system in Europe, and the whole fabric must soon tumble to the ground. Austria and Prussia are exhausting themselves, and Russia is gaining strength. It is not impossible that the Russian power may swallow up the residue of Poland; Prussia and Austria may share the same fate; and the republicans of France may hereafter prove the only barrier that can successfully resist the arms of those modern Scythians. The ancient balance of power in Europe is evidently suffering a material change; when that is destroyed, a general convulsion must succeed, which may shake every throne, and give a new aspect to the political horizon of Europe.


The revolution of France, like that of Rome, is fruitful in lessons of instruction, of which all enlightened nations should avail themselves, and which may be of great use to the United States of America.

The most important truth suggested by the foregoing remarks is, that party spirit is the source of faction and faction is death to the existing government. The history of the Jacobins is the most remarkable Edition: current; Page: [1272] illustration of this truth. I will not undertake to say that there did not exist in France a necessity for a combination of private societies, because I do not know whether it was not necessary to exterminate the remains of royalty and nobility, before a free government could be established and rendered secure and permanent. On this point I am not qualified to determin. But that it was this league of Jacobins, combining the individuals of a party scattered over a vast extent of country, into a consistent body, moved by a single soul, that produced the second revolution in France, is a point of which there can be no question. Their opposers, the moderate party impliedly acknowledged this truth, when they attempted to resist their force by the same means; and formed themselves into a society, called, from their place of meeting, Fuillans. But it was too late. The Jacobins were organized; they had already gained over the populace of Paris to their interest, and had, by caresses, and alarming their fears by the cry of despotism, won over a great part of the peasantry of the country. The Rubicon was passed; party had become faction; the Jacobins and the Fuillans were the Cesar and the Pompey of France; one or the other must fall; the Jacobins were the most powerful; they employed a body of armed men to disperse their opposers; the Fuillans were crushed; and the Jacobins, like Cesar, were seated on the throne. Admit the necessity of such a confederacy in France, or in any country where it is expedient and proper to overthrow the existing government; yet it becomes a most serious question, what is the use of such a combination of societies in the United States. When government is radically bad, it is meritorious to reform it; when there is no other expedient to rid a people of oppression, it is necessary to change the government; but when a people have freely and voluntarily chosen and instituted a constitution of government, which guarantees all their rights, and no corruption appears in the administration, there can be no necessity for a change; and if in any particular, it is thought to require amendment, a constitutional mode is provided, and there is no necessity for recurring to extraordinary expedients. In America therefore there can exist no necessity for private societies to watch over the government. Indeed to pretend that a government that has been in operation but five or six years, and which has hitherto produced nothing but public prosperity and private happiness, has need of associations in all parts of the country to guard its purity, is Edition: current; Page: [1273] like a jealous husband who should deem it necessary, the day after his nuptials, to set a centinel over his wife to secure her fidelity.

If the government of America wants a reform, the best mode of effecting this, is the constitutional mode. If it is become absolutely necessary to overthrow it, the most direct mode of doing it, is to organize a party for the purpose, by condensing its scattered forces into union and system. But if the point is admitted, that the government does not require any essential alteration, which cannot be effected in a legal way, it follows of course that the establishment of private societies is not necessary. For the same reason that such societies were found useful in France, they ought to be avoided like a pestilence in America; because a total renovation was judged necessary in that country; and such a total renovation is judged not necessary in America—because a republican government was to be established in that country; and in this, it is already established on principles of liberty and equal rights.

As the tendency of such associations is probably not fully understood by most of the persons composing them in this country, and many of whom are doubtless well-meaning citizens; it may be useful to trace the progress of party-spirit to faction first, and then of course to tyranny.

My first remark is, that contentions usually spring out of points which are trifling, speculative, or of doubtful tendency. Among trifling causes I rank personal injuries. It has frequently happened that an affront offered by one leading man in a state to another, has disquieted the whole state, and even caused a revolution. The real interest of the people has nothing to do with private resentments, and ought never to be affected by them, yet nothing is more common. And republics are more liable to suffer changes and convulsions, on account of personal quarrels, than any other species of government; because the individuals, who have acquired the confidence of the people, can always fabricate some reasons for rousing their passions—some pretext of public good may be invented, when the man has his own passions to gratify—the minds of the populace are easily enflamed—and strong parties may be raised on the most frivolous occasions. I have known an instance in America of a man’s intriguing for and obtaining an election to an important trust; which he immediately resigned, and confessed he had done it solely to gratify his own Edition: current; Page: [1274] will and mortify his enemies. Yet had the man been disposed, he might have used his influence to strengthen a party, and given trouble to the state.

Another cause of violent parties is frequently a difference of opinion on speculative questions, or those, whose real tendency to secure public happiness is equivocal. When measures are obviously good, and clearly tend to advance public weal, there will seldom be much division of opinion on the propriety of adopting them. All parties unite in pursuing the public interest, when it is clearly visible. But when it is doubtful what will be the ultimate effect of a measure, men will differ in opinion, and probably the parties will be nearly equal. It is on points of private local utility, or on those of doubtful tendency, that men split into parties.

My second remark is, that a contention between parties is usually violent in proportion to the trifling nature of the point in question; or to the uncertainty of its tendency to promote public happiness. When an object of great magnitude is in question, and its utility obvious, a great majority is usually found in its favor, and vice versa; and a large majority usually quiets all opposition. But when a point is of less magnitude or less visible utility, the parties may be and often are nearly equal. Then it becomes a trial of strength—each party acquires confidence from the very circumstance of equality—both become assured they are right—confidence inspires boldness and expectation of success—pride comes in aid of argument—the passions are inflamed—the merits of the cause become a subordinate consideration—victory is the object and not public good; at length the question is decided by a small majority—success inspires one party with pride, and they assume the airs of conquerors; disappointment sours the minds of the other—and thus the contest ends in creating violent passions which are always ready to enlist into every other cause. Such is the progress of party-spirit; and a single question will often give rise to a party, that will continue for generations; and the same men or their adherents will continue to divide on other questions, that have not the remotest connection with the first point of contention.

This observation gives rise to my third remark; that nothing is more dangerous to the cause of truth and liberty than a party-spirit. When men are once united, in whatever form, or upon whatever occasion, Edition: current; Page: [1275] the union creates a partiality or friendship for each member of the party or society. A coalition for any purpose creates an attachment, and inspires a confidence in the individuals of the party, which does not die with the cause which united them; but continues, and extends to every other object of social intercourse.

Thus we see men first united in some system of religious faith, generally agree in their political opinions. Natives of the same country, even in a foreign country, unite and form a separate private society. The Masons feel attached to each other, tho in distant parts of the world.

The same may be said of Episcopalians, Quakers, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, federalists, and antifederalists, mechanic societies, chambers of commerce, Jacobin and democratic societies. It is altogether immaterial what circumstance first unites a number of men into a society; whether they first rally round the church, a square and compass, a cross, or a cap; the general effect is always the same; while the union continues, the members of the association feel a particular confidence in each other, which leads them to believe each others opinions, to catch each others passions, and to act in concert on every question in which they are interested.

Hence arises what is called bigotry or illiberality. Persons who are united on any occasion, are more apt to believe the prevailing opinions of their society, than the prevailing opinions of another society. They examin their own creeds more fully (and perhaps with a mind predisposed to believe them), than they do the creeds of other societies. Hence the full persuasion in every society that theirs is right; and if right, others of course are wrong. Perhaps therefore I am warranted in saying, there is a species of bigotry in every society on earth—and indeed in every man’s own particular faith. While each man and each society is freely indulged in his own opinion, and that opinion is mere speculation, there is peace, harmony, and good understanding. But the moment a man or a society attempts to oppose the prevailing opinions of another man or society, even his arguments rouse passion; it being difficult for two men of opposite creeds to dispute for any time, without getting angry. And when one party attempts in practice to interfere with the opinions of another party, violence most generally succeeds.

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These remarks are so consonant to experience and common observation, that I presume no man can deny them; and if true, they deserve the serious attention of every good citizen of America.

The citizens of this extensive republic constitute a nation. As a nation, we feel all the prejudices of a society. These national prejudices are probably necessary, in the present state of the world, to strengthen our government. They form a species of political bigotry, common to all nations, from which springs a real allegiance, never expressed, but always firm and unwavering. This passion, when corrected by candor, benevolence and love of mankind, softens down into a steady principle, which forms the soul of a nation, true patriotism. Each nation of the world is then a party in the great society of the human race. When at peace, party spirit subsides, and mutual intercourse unites the parties. But when the interest of either is attacked, a war succeeds, and all the malignant and barbarous passions are called into exercise.

Admit national prejudices to be in a degree, necessary; let us see what other prejudices exist in the United States, which may prove pernicious to ourselves. The American nation is composed of fifteen subordinate states. I say subordinate; for they are so in all national concerns. They are sovereign only in their internal police.

The states were erected out of British colonies; and it was the policy of Great Britain, rather to foment, than to allay or eradicate, colonial prejudices. She knew that such prejudices weakened the strength of the colonies, and kept them in subjection to the mother-empire. Even the manners, the language and the food of the people in one colony were made the subjects of ridicule by the inhabitants of another. Ridicule is accompanied or followed by a degree of contempt; and hence sprung a dissocial turn of mind among the people of different colonies, which common interest and common danger have not yet converted into perfect harmony.

Since the revolution, a jealousy between the states has sprung from the superior wealth, magnitude or advantages of some, which the small states apprehended would enable the large ones to swallow them up in some future time. This jealousy is mostly removed by the present constitution of the United States; which guarantees to each state, its independence and a republican form of government. This guarranty is the best security of each.

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Another source of apprehension has been and still is, the danger of what is called consolidation. The states are constantly asserting their sovereignty, and publishing their fears that the national government will gradually absorb the state governments. Their jealousy on this head is alive, and alarmed at every breeze of air. I am clearly of opinion, that if peace and harmony can be preserved between the general and particular governments, the purity of our national government will depend much on the legislatures of the several states. They are the political guardians, whose interest is constantly impelling them to watch the progress of corruption in the general government. And they will always be the more attentive to their duty, as they entertain not only a jealousy of the general government, but a jealousy of each other.

But I differ from many people who fear a consolidation. So far as my knowledge of history and men will enable me to judge on this subject, I must think our danger mostly lies in the jealousy of the several states. Instead of a probable annihilation of the state governments, I apprehend great danger from the disuniting tendency of state jealousy, which may dismember the present confederacy. That the states have the power to do this, I have no doubt; and I consider our union, and consequently our strength and prosperity as depending more on mutual interest, and mutual concession, than on the force of the national constitution. Consolidation is with me a bug-bear, a chimera, as idle and insignificant, as the medallion of a king. But from the disorganizing tendency of state jealousy, there appears to be a well founded apprehension of danger.

But the principal danger to which our government is exposed will probably arise from another quarter; the spirit of party, which is now taking the form of system. While a jealousy and opposition to the national constitution exist only in the legislatures of the several states, they will be restrained and moderated by the public dignity of those bodies, and by legal or constitutional forms of proceeding. Opposition thus tempered loses its terrors.

But opposition that is raised in private societies of men, who are self-created, unknown to the laws of the country, private in their proceedings, and perhaps violent in their passions, the moment it ceases to be insignificant, becomes formidable to government and freedom. The very people who compose these societies, are not aware of the Edition: current; Page: [1278] possible consequences that may flow from their associations. They are few of them persons of extensive historical knowlege; and they do not perceive, that under pretence of securing their rights and liberties, they are laying the foundation of factions which will probably end in the destruction of liberty and a free government. They do not consider, that when men become members of a political club, they lose their individual independence of mind; that they lose their impartiality of thinking and acting; and become the dupes of other men. The moment a man is attached to a club, his mind is not free: He receives a biass from the opinions of the party: A question indifferent to him, is no longer indifferent, when it materially effects a brother of the society. He is not left to act for himself; he is bound in honor to take part with the society—his pride and his prejudices, if at war with his opinion, will commonly obtain the victory; and rather than incur the ridicule or censure of his associates, he will countenance their measures, at all hazards; and thus an independant freeman is converted into a mere walking machine, a convenient engine of party leaders.

It is thus that private associations may always influence public measures; and if they are formed for the express purpose of discussing political measures, they may prove pernicious to the existing government.

The Society of Jesuits, formed at first without any intention of influencing government, became at last formidable to the civil power, wherever they were established and the society was finally dissolved by the arm of power, on account of the danger of its intrigues. The society was at first small and insignificant; but its influence was increased and strengthened by such means as I have described, till a small part of the inhabitants of a country, became dangerous to its government!

The masonic societies do not often intermeddle with politics; tho I have known an instance or two, in a different state, in which their influence was exerted for the brethren, and to a very bad effect. But were the masons in this or any European country, to unite their efforts for the purpose of governing the politics of the country, they might insensibly assume a great share of influence. To the honor of the craft be it mentioned, they have generally avoided any abuse of their power in this respect. But should that society or any other make Edition: current; Page: [1279] it a business to unite their opinions and influence the measures of government, the society would establish an aristocracy in the country, and it would be necessary that the institution should share the fate of the Jesuits.

Private associations of men for the purposes of promoting arts, sciences, benevolence or charity are very laudable, and have been found beneficial in all countries. But whenever such societies attempt to convert the private attachment of their members into an instrument of political warfare, they are, in all cases, hostile to government. They are useful in pulling down bad governments; but they are dangerous to good government, and necessarily destroy liberty and equality of rights in a free country. I say necessarily; for it must occur to any man of common reflection, that in a free country, each citizen, in his private capacity, has an equal right to a share of influence in directing public measures; but a society, combined for the purpose of augmenting and extending its influence, acquires an undue proportion of that general influence which is to direct the will of the state. Each individual member of the state should have an equal voice in elections; but the individuals of a club have more than an equal voice, because they have the benefit of another influence; that of extensive private attachments which come in aid of each man’s political opinion. And just in proportion as the members of a club have an undue share of influence, in that proportion they abridge the rights of their fellow citizens. Every club therefore formed for political purposes, is an aristocracy established over their brethren. It has all the properties of an aristocracy, and all the effects of tyranny. It is only substituting the influence of private attachments, in lieu of the influence of birth and property among the nobility of Europe; and the certain effect of private intrigue in lieu of the usurped power and rights of feudal lords; the effects are the same. It is a literal truth, which cannot be denied, evaded, or modified, that the democratic clubs in the United States, while running mad with the abhorrence of aristocratic influence, are attempting to establish precisely the same influence under a different name. And if any thing will rescue this country from the jaws of faction, and prevent our free government from falling a prey, first to civil dissensions, and finally to some future Sylla and Marius, it must be either the good sense of a great majority of Americans, which will discourage private political associations, Edition: current; Page: [1280] and render them contemptible; or the controling power of the laws of the country, which in an early stage, shall demolish all such institutions, and secure to each individual in the great political family, equal rights and an equal share of influence in his individual capacity.

But let us admit that no fatal consequences to government, and equal rights will ensue from these institutions, still their effects on social harmony are very pernicious, and already begin to appear. A party-spirit is hostile to all friendly intercourse: it inflames the passions; it sours the mind; it destroys good neighborhood: it warps the judgment in judicial determinations: it banishes candor and substitutes prejudice; it restrains the exercise of benevolent affections; and in proportion as it chills the warm affections of the soul, it undermines the whole system of moral virtue. Were the councils of hell united to invent expedients for depriving men of the little portion of good they are destined to enjoy on this earth, the only measure they need adopt for this purpose, would be, to introduce factions into the bosom of the country. It was faction that kept the states of Greece and Rome in perpetual perturbation; it was faction which was an incessant scourge of merit; it was faction which produced endless dissension and frequent civil wars; it was faction which converted a polite people, into barbarous persecutors, as it has done in France; and which finally compelled the brave republicans of Rome to suffer a voluntary death, or to shelter themselves from the fury of contending parties, beneath the scepter of an emperor.

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on faction

The following short account of the disputes between Sylla and Marius in Rome, is too applicable to my purpose to be omitted.

Sylla and Marius were competitors for the command of the army destined to act against Mithridates in Asia. Sylla obtained the appointment. Marius, to revenge himself, and if possible, displace his rival, had recourse to P. Sulpicius, a popular tribune, of considerable talents, but daring and vicious. This man made interest with the people, sold the freedom of the city to strangers and freemen, with a view to strengthen his party, and proposed a number of popular laws, in direct violation of the Roman constitution—some of which artifices are exactly similar to those employed by the Jacobins in France and their disciples.

The consuls attempted to defeat these projects; but the tribune, collected a multitude of the people, went to the senate house, and commanded the consuls to comply with their wishes. This is precisely the mode of proceeding adopted by the Jacobins in Paris.

The consuls refused; the populace drew their daggers; the son of the consul, Pompeius, was killed, but Sylla escaped. This answers to the manner in which the Jacobins destroyed their enemies, the Fuillans, by employing an armed body of ruffians.

Sylla however was brought back and compelled to comply with the demands of the tribune. He was therefore left in possession of the consulship, and soon after joined the army. His colleague, Pompeius, was degraded, and Sulpicius obtained the laws he had proposed. Sylla was displaced and Marius appointed to the command of the army. Just so the Jacobins proceeded, till they had filled all public offices with their own partizans.

Now the factions were ripe, and they ended as other factions end, in repelling force with force. Sylla would not resign his command to a faction. (La Fayette and Demourier had the spirit of Sylla, in like circumstances, but their troops would not support them.) He marched his army of 35,000 men towards Rome. The city was in confusion. The senate, by order of Sulpicius and Marius, the Marat and Barrere of Rome, sent a deputation, forbidding the approach of Edition: current; Page: [1282] the army. The deputies were insulted by the soldiers. Other ambassadors were dispatched by the senate, requesting Sylla not to proceed. He answered he would stay where he was; but he detached a body of men to take possession of one of the gates of the city. The people drove them back, but Sylla arrived in time to support them; and he set fire to the adjacent houses. Marius resisted, and promised freedom to the slaves that would join him. But he was forced to flee and Sylla, assembling the senate, proposed the banishment of Sulpicius, Marius, and ten of their principal adherents. The edict was passed, and Sylla set a price upon their head, and confiscated their estates. Sulpicius was taken by the treachery of a slave and put to death. To reward the slave, Sylla gave him his freedom, and then ordered him, for the treachery, to be thrown from the Tarpeian rock (the method of rewarding and punishing modern traitors is much similar—giving them a round sum of money and consigning them to infamy).

Sylla convened the people, annulled the new laws of Sulpicius, created three hundred senators to strengthen his interest, and soon set out for Asia, with his army. I cannot detail the whole history of this business—suffice it to say, this pitiful question, which of two able generals (either of them fit for the purpose, and not of a straw’s value to the public which gained the appointment), should command the army in the Mithridatic war, gave rise to two parties or factions, which pursued each other with implacable enmity, till they brot their forces into the field, and an action was fought, which cost the lives of ten thousand men.

Marius, the conqueror of the Cimbri, and savior of Rome, an exile, took shipping, was cast away, taken by his foes, escaped, suffering incredible hardships; finally arrived in Asia, where he was maltreated—at last recalled by Cinna the consul, he returned to Italty, and embodying a number of slaves, he entered Rome, and filled it with slaughter; his party putting to death every man, whose salutation Marius did not return.* Marius grew daily more blood-thirsty, and at Edition: current; Page: [1283] last put to death every person of whom he had the least suspicion. Who does not see the guillotine in ancient Rome?

Marius soon after died: but his son headed an army and supported his faction. Sylla, having defeated Mithridates and reduced him to terms of peace, returned to Italy; fought the Marian party, and in two actions, it is said, twenty thousand men were slain in each. Finally Sylla crushed his rival’s party, and put to death the leaders, filling Rome with slaughter, as Marius had done before him. Sylla’s cruel proscriptions fill the reader with horror. Nearly five thousand of the best citizens of Rome were proscribed and massacred. Sylla’s assassins roamed thro Italy to find the adherents of Marius, and put them to indiscriminate slaughter. When the senators appeared alarmed at such outrages, Sylla answered them coolly, “Conscript fathers, it is only a few seditious men, whom I have ordered to be punished” precisely the language of the ruling faction in France, and precisely the language of party in all countries.

It is remarkable also that the pretext for these violences is always the same “to rescue the state from tyranny—to destroy despotism—to exterminate traitors.” This was the perpetual cant of Sylla and Marius, while they were butchering each other’s adherents with merciless cruelty. This was the pretence of Cromwell in England—and it is the present language of the ruling men in France. The state must be saved, and to save it, our party must prevail; liberty must be secured; but to secure it, we must be absolute in power, and of course liberty is crushed. A republic must be established; but to do this, a few commissioners, with dictatorial power, seconded by an irresistable military force, must govern the country. Our government shall be a republic, one and indivisible; and to effect this, it is necessary to put to death the representatives of one half the republic, that the whole may be governed by the other half. Freedom of debate is a constitutional right; but we must have a Paris mob to hiss down our enemies.

Sylla crushed his enemies, with the blood of nearly one hundred thousand citizens and soldiers; and after he had thus delivered Rome from tyrants, as he pretended, he ordered the people to elect him perpetual dictator. He treated the people just as all popular leaders treat them; first courting them, with the cry of liberty; making them the instruments of their own elevation; then trampling on them as slaves. Just so in England, Cromwell destroyed the tyranny, of Charles I, by the cant of liberty and religion, then saddled the English Edition: current; Page: [1284] with his own despotic power. Just so Danton, and Barrere are now dictators in France; without the name, but with all the powers; and who will succeed them, God only knows.

I beg the reader to consider these facts, as intended solely to set in a strong point of light the danger of faction. I will not say that the tyranny and corruptions of the old governments in Europe will not warrant men in hazarding all possible temporary evils, to effect a renovation. I would, with candor, believe such violences, in some degree, unavoidable. But nothing short of most palpable corruption, the most unequivocal proof of necessity, can warrant men in resorting to irregular bodies of the people, for a redress of evils. While law and constitution are adhered to, the remedy will always be safe. But when tumultuous meetings of people, unknown to the laws, and unrestrained by legal modes of procedure, undertake to direct the public will, faction succeeds; and faction begets disorder, force, rancorous passions, anarchy, tyranny, blood and slaughter.

jacobin club

At the beginning of the late revolution in America, the people of this country had recourse to a similar mode of combining all parts of the continent into a system of opposition to the existing government. In most of the colonies, the British crown, by its officers, had considerable influence. To resist this influence, the leaders found it necessary to call in the aid of the great body of the people; to rouse their passions, inflammatory publications were circulated with great industry; and to unite, condense and direct the opinions and passions of an immense people, scattered over a great extent of territory, associations were formed, under the denomination of Committees of Safety, which had a correspondence with each other, and moulded the proceedings of the people into uniformity and system. The first Congress grew out of the same system; and then followed union, concert and energy in prosecuting the revolution.

It has been an inexplicable mystery to many very judicious men, how the Americans should have been brot to unite in opposing the usurped claims of Great-Britain, when the evils of slavery were not in reality felt, but only expected by the people. In short, why such a Edition: current; Page: [1285] number of illiterate men should be prevailed upon to resist tyranny in principle, and risk the evils of war, when the effects of the British claims were but slightly felt by the mass of people. All parties however agree in ascribing this amazing union, to the good sense of the Americans.

The truth is, discernment and talents were necessary to form and direct the system; but the multitude were managed more by their passions than by their reason. The committees of safety were the instruments of union; and the passions of the populace the instruments of action. The presses teemed with publications addressed to the passions; the horrors of slavery were presented to the imagination in striking colors: and the men who wrote intended, when they wrote, to exaggerate real facts for the purpose of rousing the passions of resentment and dread of evils, which reason told them, were not to be expected. These matters are now known. And it appears very clear from history and observation, that in a popular government, it is not difficult to inflame the passions of a people with imaginary as well as real evils. In Europe, the people have real evils to extirpate. The passions of Americans are inlisting on one side or the other of the present contest in France. We feel no loss of personal liberty as yet, in consequence of the combination against France; but artful men address the passions of our citizens; they teach them to fear, that if France should be reduced, the combined powers will attack liberty in America. Cool men who reflect upon the difficulties of such an attempt, consider all such apprehensions as groundless and idle. But two or three hundred men collected, might have their passions so wrought upon by an artful or noisy declaimer, as to believe the danger real. They then grow violent, and denounce as enemies, all who are cool or moderate enough to entertain no such fears. Thus two parties are formed on a mere imaginary evil, and when the parties are formed, some badge of distinction, a button or a cockade is assumed, to widen the breach, and create disaffection, suspicion and hostile passions. All this is very visible in America; and because some men are too rational to be alarmed at chimeras, too temperate to commit themselves hastily, or too respectable not to despise little badges of distinction, the livery of faction, they are insulted as enemies to the rights of the people: And whenever opportunities offer, they fall a prey to the fury of popular passion. This is the triumph of passion Edition: current; Page: [1286] over reason; of violence, over moderation. Should the present controversy in Europe continue two or three years longer, I should not be surprized to see party spirit in America, which grew originally out of a mere speculative question, proceed to open hostility and bloodshed. People are easily made to believe their government is bad, or not so good as they might expect from change; they may be made to fear corruption, which they do not see, and which does not exist: and to risk real evils at the present moment, to guard against possible evils, a century hence. All this may be done, if restless daring men will take pains to manage popular passions.


It may seem strange that moderation should be deemed a crime; but it is a literal truth. In the sittings of the Jacobin Club Dec. 26th. 1793, Robespiere was under the necessity of vindicating himself from the charge of being a moderate, a Fuillant.

Nor is it less singular that some of the charges against their opposers should consist of mere trifles or suspicion, or were so indefinite as not to be capable of proof. One of the charges against Le Brun, was, that he christened a daughter by the name of “Victoire Demourier Jamappe.” This was done while Demourier was in full career of glory; yet his enemies, from this circumstance, deduced proof of Le Brun’s conspiracy with Demourier. He was convicted of conspiring against the unity and indivisibility of the republic; that is, of attempting to form a federal government in France, like that of America.

[the temple of reason]

There is no instance of idolatrous worship recorded in history, that displays more blind superstition, than the celebration of the Festival of Reason. The idol adored, is not the same as those worshipped by the ancient Druids, or modern Hindoos; but it is still an idol, and the pagan world cannot furnish a more striking instance to prove that men will forever worship something, whether a cat, a bird, an oak, the sun, the moon, fire, or the Temple of Reason. Totally immaterial Edition: current; Page: [1287] is it, what the idol is; the deity of the day has no connection with men’s happiness, otherwise than as he is visible; he strikes the senses; he rouses the passions of the multitude, and they believe he is propitious to them—how or in what manner they never know or enquire. The oak of the Druids was just as good and powerful a deity, as the temple or altar of reason. The oak inspired its votaries with superstition and enthusiasm; and that is precisely the effect of the French festival of reason; for of all fanatics that ever existed, the French appear, in all that respects what they call philosophy, to be the least rational. The following is the account of the festival.


A grand festival dedicated to reason and truth was yesterday celebrated in the ci-devant cathedral of Paris. In the middle of this church was erected a mount, and on it a very plain temple, the facade of which bore the following inscription; A la Philosophie. Before the gate of this temple was placed the Torch of Truth in the summit of the mount on the Altar of Reason spreading light. The convention and all the constituted authorities assisted at the ceremony.

Two rows of young girls dressed in white, each wearing a crown of oak leaves, crossed before the Altar of Reason, at the sound of republican music; each of the girls inclined before the torch, and ascend[ed] the summit of the mountain. Liberty then came out of the Temple of Philosophy towards a throne made of grass, to receive the homage of the republicans of both sexes, who sung a hymn in her praise, extending their arms at the same time towards her. Liberty descended afterwards to return to the temple, and on re-entering it, she turned about, casting a look of benevolence on her friends. When she got in, every one expressed with enthusiasm the sensations which the goddess excited in them, by songs of joy, and they swore never to cease to be faithful to her.

How little men see their own errors. All this ceremony and parade about reason and liberty; at a time when the governing faction were wading to the altar thro rivers of innocent blood; at a time when the tyranny, imprisonments, and massacres of a century are crouded into a single year.

One absurdity more must be noticed. The Jacobins have displayed an implacable hatred of royalty and every thing that belongs to it. Even devices of kingly origin on coins and rings have not escaped their vengeance, yet these same people have borrowed the principal Edition: current; Page: [1288] emblem of royalty themselves; to adorn this festival: and two rows of young girls are furnished with crowns of oak leaves.

of aristocracy

There is not a word in the English or French language so much bandied about by disigning men, and so little understood by their echoing agents, as the word aristocrat. A few days ago an honest man, by no means the least informed, was asked if he knew the meaning of it; he replied very ingenuously, “he did not understand it, but he supposed it some French word.” Yet this word is used with great effect to excite party prejudices.

Aristocracy in Europe denotes a distinction of men, by birth, titles, property, or office. In America this distinction does not exist with respect to hereditary titles or office; nor with respect to birth and property, any farther than the minds of men, from nature or habit, are inclined to pay more than ordinary respect to persons who are born of parents that have been distinguished for something eminent, and to persons who have large estates. This propensity, whether natural or habitual, exists—no man can deny it; and this is all Mr. Adams, in his defence, means by the words well-born; an expression that has rung a thousand changes from New-Hampshire to Georgia. Yet the very declaimers who fill our ears with a perpetual din on this subject, are exemplifying the truth of this natural aristocracy, in almost every negociation of their lives. The most noisy democrat in this country, who feasts upon the words liberty and equality, cannot put a son apprentice to business, without searching for a respectable family to take him; nor marry a son or daughter, without enquiring particularly into the family, connections and fortune of the proposed partner. It may be said, this propensity to pay respect to such things is wrong and vitious—be it so—the propensity exists—these things are true—they cannot be contradicted. And Mr. Adams, instead of advocating aristocracy and its exclusive privileges, makes it a main point in his defence, to explain the nature and tendency of this principle in men, and to point out cautions and expedients for guarding against its pernicious effects in government. His labors to check this spirit of Edition: current; Page: [1289] aristocracy in America, entitle him to the character of a firm intelligent republican.

If the word aristocracy is applicable to any thing in America, it is to that personal influence which men derive from offices, the merit of eminent services, age, talents, wealth, education, virtue, or whatever other circumstance attracts the attention of people. The distinguishing circumstances of nobility in Europe, are hereditary titles, estates and offices, which give the possessor some claims or rights above others. In this country, most of the circumstances which command particular respect, are personal, accidental or acquired, and none of them give the possessor any claims or rights over his fellow citizens. Yet the circumstances which do actually give this personal influence, which forms a kind of natural or customary aristocracy, exist universally among men, savage or civilized, in every country and under every form of government. The circumstances are either natural, or arise necessarily out of the state of society. Helvetius and other profound philosophers may write as much as they please, to prove man to be wholly the creature of his own making, the work of education; but facts occur every hour to common observation, to prove the theory false. The difference of intellectual faculties in man is visible almost as soon as he is born, and is more early and more distinctly marked than the difference of his features. And this natural difference of capacity originates a multitude of other differences in after-life, which create distinctions; that is, they give rise to those circumstances of talents, wit, address, property, and office to which men invariably pay a kind of respect. This respect gives personal influence to the possessor, in some circle, either small or great, and this personal influence is the natural aristocracy of men, in all countries and in all governments. It exists among the native Indians; it has existed in every republic on earth: From the president of the United States, to the humble apple-dealer at the corner of Fly-market, every person enjoys a portion of this personal influence among his particular acquaintance. It exists in government, in churches, in towns, in parishes, in private societies and in families.

It is this insensible aristocracy of opinion and respect that now forms the firmest band of union between the states. The long and eminent services of our worthy President have filled all hearts with Edition: current; Page: [1290] gratitude and respect; and by means of this gratitude and respect, and the confidence they inspire in his talents and integrity, he has a greater influence in America than any nobleman, perhaps than any prince, in Europe. This respect has hitherto restrained the violence of parties: whatever be the difference of opinion on subjects of government, all parties agree to confide in the president. This is the effect of his personal influence; and not a respect for the laws or constitution of the United States. Americans rally round the man, rather than round the executive authority of the union. And it is a problem to be solved, after his leaving the office, what energy, or force really exists in the executive authority itself.

If my ideas of natural aristocracy are just, the president of the United States, is a most influential, and most useful aristocrat: and long may America enjoy the blessings of such aristocracy!

A similar personal influence is observable in other men. In every state, in every town, there are some, who, by their talents, wealth, address or old age and wisdom, acquire and preserve a superior share of influence in their districts. This influence may do good or hurt, as it is coupled with good or bad intentions. But that when confined to small districts, as towns and parishes, it has most generally a good effect, there is no doubt. An old respected citizen has a thousand opportunities of correcting the opinions, settling the quarrels, and restraining the passions of his neighbors. This personal influence in small districts is most remarkable in some parts of New-England; wherever it exists, peace and concord distinguish the neighborhood; and where by any accident, it does not exist, society is distracted with quarrels and parties, which produce an uncommon depravity of morals.

One remark further. The people who contend most for liberty and equality, and who are most alarmed at aristocracy, are, in America, the greatest dupes of this aristocracy of personal influence. Federal men not only respect the president, but they make the constitution and laws of the United States, their standard; at least they aim to do it. On the other hand, their opposers rally round the standard of particular men. There are certain leading men in the antifederal interest, who have more absolute authority over the opinions of that party, than is possessed by any man in America, except the president of the United States. As the aristocracy of America consists in this personal Edition: current; Page: [1291] influence, the men, who in private associations, have the most of this influence, are, in their sphere, the most complete aristocrats. And at this time, certain influential men in the democratic clubs, are the most influential aristocrats there are in America among private citizens.

While this personal influence is governed by good motives, or limited to small districts, it is not dangerous and may be useful. When it extends far, it may be useful or dangerous, according as it is directed by good or vitious men. It is always to be watched—in public affairs, it is controled by the laws; in clubs and private citizens, it has no restraint but the consciences of men; and it is to be watched with double vigilance, as its danger is in proportion to its extent.

[contempt for religion]

It is remarked that the Estates General, on their first assembling May 5, 1789, commenced their important labors with a solemn act of devotion. Preceded by the clergy and followed by the king, the representatives of the nation repaired to the temple of God, accompanied with an immense croud, and offered up vows and prayers for success.

Contrast this with the late severe laws respecting the clergy, and the abolition of christianity. Some of the convention pretend to entertain a respect for morality; yet as early as 1791, before they had proceeded to publish atheism as a national creed, one of the members in debate declared it “impossible for a society to exist without an immutable and eternal system of morality”; and this declaration was followed with repeated and loud busts of laughter. This is an instance selected from thousands to show their contempt of every thing that looks like the obligations of religion and morality. Moniteur 15 November, 1791.

[on jacobin subversion]

The following remarks of Mr. Neckar, who was in France and observed all the arts invented by the Jacobins to get command of the people, are [too] much in point to be omitted.

Edition: current; Page: [1292]

It was an artful contrivance, the success of which was certain, to involve the constitution in two words, liberty and equality. Men of sense would perceive that between these ideas, and a just conception of a political institution there was a vast distance. But the people are to be acted upon only by reducing things to a small compass; it is by restricting their ideas to the narrow circle of their feelings, and absorbing their passions in a phrase, that we become their masters. This object accomplished, a watchword, or in its stead, an outward token, a mark of distinction, the color or fold of a ribbon, has greater effect than the wisdom of a Solon or the eloquence of a Demosthenes. Such are the multitude—such the description of the empire that may be obtained over them; and criminal indeed are those who take advantage of their weakness, and practice arts to deceive them, rather than to render them happy by the sole authority of reason and morality.

Neckar on Exec. Power Vol. 2. 269.

The emissaries of the Jacobins are attempting to make themselves masters of the people in America by the same means—by clubs and a button, or other badge of distinction. Detestable is the artifice, and may confusion be the portion of the Jesuitical incendiaries, who are thus secretly planting enmity and sedition in our peaceful country!

[on factional savagery]

Of the ferociousness of civil war, history furnishes innumerable proofs; and the people of France are daily presenting new examples of the sanguinary spirit of all parties in that distracted country. The following official letter offers a specimen.

Letter from the president and members composing the military committee with the Army of the West, to the commonalty of Paris, dated Saumur, 6 Nivose, (Dec. 25.)

We have to communicate to you the interesting news of the total destruction of the banditti on the right banks of the Loire. There are here and there yet some small remains of these monsters in the interior part of La Vendee, but as our armies are no longer obliged to divide themselves, they will undoubtedly soon clear the whole country. Those who solicit the convention to prevent the great measures of public welfare, and try to inspire them with a false compassion, are either traitors or egotists. If you had seen like me, what this fanatic herd is capable of! Patriots thrown into the fire alive, others cut and chopped to pieces. Two days before the siege Edition: current; Page: [1293] of Angers, in a country which was supposed to be all sacred to liberty, three hundred soldiers were assassinated by these monsters, in the neighborhood of Chemeville, and nevertheless the evening before they had cried Vive la Republique! and declared that they sincerely repented of their errors: and in different parts of this unhappy country similar events have taken place.

(Signed) Felix & Millie.

It is surprizing that men will be guilty of the most direct and palpable contradictions, and yet they will not see them—they cannot be convinced of them. The military committee call the insurgents a banditti, a fanatic herd: accuse them of throwing patriots into the fire alive, and chopping them to pieces. Yet with the same breath, they declare the news of their total extirpation by shooting, drowning, and beheading them in cool blood. Besides[,] who began these scenes of carnage? The patriots, so called; the Jacobins and their adherents. The massacre of the 10th of August and 2d and 3d of Sept. were the first scenes of the bloody drama that has been exhibiting for two years in that populous country. In the first scenes of the tragedy several thousand men fell victims—many of them not even suspected of disaffection to the cause of liberty. Who does not see the massacre of St. Bartholomew revived in all its horrors? Change but the names of Catholics and Protestants, to Jacobins and Royalists, and the same scene is presented. The apparent motives are different, but analagous. The catholics put to death the protestants in 1572, because they opposed the power of the Catholics. They opposed Catherine of Medicis, and the Duke of Guise; and the latter, thinking them troublesome, pronounced them traitors and heretics, a scheme of universal assassination was formed, and the King Charles IXth, gave his assent to it. On that dreadful night, the sound of a bell was the signal for rallying, and the assassins were let loose upon the unsuspecting protestants. Five thousand in Paris, and twenty-five or thirty thousand in France, fell victims to the savage fury of the dogs of faction. All this was to serve God and religion.

Draw a parrallel between this scene and the massacre of August and September 1792. The popular party suspected treason in their opposers. Without trial or proof they must be exterminated. A banditti is prepared, from Paris and Marseilles. At midnight the bell gives the signal for rallying; the populace collect and the bloody work Edition: current; Page: [1294] is begun—the Swiss guards, all suspected persons, priests and prisoners fall a sacrifice, in the indiscriminate slaughter. In these massacres, six or seven thousand persons are murdered—and for what? Why the old stale plea of necessity is called in to justify it—and liberty in this case, as religion in the massacre of St. Bartholomew is made the stalking horse to drive the trade of butchering their fellow men. The truth is, religion in one case and liberty in the other directly forbid all such outrages. It is faction. Men are always the same ferocious animals, when guided by passion and loosed from the restraints of law. Let parties grow warm—let their passions be inflamed—let them believe one man is the enemy of another—let opposition exasperate them—and it is only for some daring demagogue to cry, your religion, or your liberty is in danger—your enemies are heretics or traitors—they must be exterminated—and the murderous work begins, and seldom ends till one party crushes the other. In all cases of this kind, without one solitary exception on record, faction ends in tyranny—the victorious party, even with the word liberty incessantly on their tongues, never failing to exercise over the defeated party, the most cruel vengeful acts of domination.

This is a most interesting subject to Americans; as the seeds of faction, that bane of republics, seem to be sown by an industrious party in America, and God only knows what will be the fruit of these things. So strong is the impression on my mind, that the present situation of Europe, and our attachment to the French cause require all the caution and vigilance of government and good sense, to save this country from running mad in theories of popular constitutions, and plunging itself into the evils of faction and anarchy, that I beg leave to subjoin the following facts and remarks on this subject.

The manner in which the reports to the National Convention, mention the destruction of the rebels at La Vendee, many of them honest deluded country people, fills the reader with horror. “Our soldiers, hand to hand, cut them down in front of their cannon. Streets, roads, plains and marshes were encumbered with the dead; we marched over heaps of the slain.” “This banditti, these monsters—this army of robbers is destroyed.” “This war of rogues and peasants.” “It would have done your heart good to see these soldiers of Jesus and Louis XVII, throwing themselves into the marshes, or obliged to surrender.” “Five hundred rebels were brot in; they implored Edition: current; Page: [1295] pardon, which was refused—they were all put to death.” “Six hundred were brot to Acenis; 800 to Angers and a great number to Saumer—the representatives of the people would rid the earth of them by ordering them to be thrown into the Loire.” “The late actions on the Vendee have cost the lives of 40,000 persons.” “The civil war the last summer is supposed to have cost France two hundred thousand lives.” These are the accounts we have received from France. “The rebels have been nearly all killed—the royalists have been all massacred—the prisoners are so numerous that the guillotine is not sufficient—I have taken the method, says Garrier, of having them all shot to death.” These are the words of the triumphant republicans. Nay, two brothers finding a third brother among the rebels, demanded he should be tried by the military committee.

But what exceeds all the descriptions of barbarity hitherto known in America, is the speech of Collot D’Herbois in the National Convention. “Jacobins! Some persons wish to moderate the revolutionary moment; take care of it; never forget what Robespiere told you on this subject. Some persons wish to make you establish a committee of clemency—No clemency!—be always Jacobins and mountaneers, and liberty shall be saved.”

Such are the terrible effects of civil war, the offspring of faction. Foreign wars are conducted with more humanity: it is in civil wars only that men turn savages, and exult over the mangled carcases of their fathers, brethren and fellow citizens.

[on treason]

It is said that Brissot and his party went farther than I have admitted in the text; and actually attempted to exite the people to arms in support of their proposed federal government. The charge on trial was, that “they had conspired against the unity and indivisibility of the republic,” and this was held treason. Admit this to be proved; yet it is also admitted that they were republicans; they were all enemies of monarchy. The only circumstance then that fixes the charge of criminality on this party, is, that they were less numerous than the Jacobins: for the Jacobins had recourse to the same means to destroy their opposers, the Fuillans—they employed an armed populace and Edition: current; Page: [1296] actually dispersed them by force. This is a public fact. Had the Fuillans, the moderate party, been more numerous (and a few additional members would have turned the scale), they would have crushed the Jacobins, and their ideas of a republican government would have been right—the Jacobinic system of an indivisible republic would have been wrong; and the Jacobins would have been traitors for attempting to maintain it by force. This is a fair statement of the question between the parties.

When the public will of a nation has instituted a government, and that government is in exercise, the constitution is the standard of right; the men who adhere to it are faithful to their country; they are good citizens. When during a revolution, the old government is, by the representatives of the nation, abolished in legal form, and a new one is not yet established, there is a kind of interregnum, a period when the representatives are at liberty to propose any form of government they please. No peaceable act of any representative, to establish his own system, can be called treason. There is no constitution against which an act of treason can be committed—no law, no standard by which it can be defined or proved. If any man attempts to use force and compel his countrymen to receive his system, in preference to others, it is an unwarrantable act—a high misdemeanor—an invasion of liberty—perhaps it may be treason: tho it would be difficult to punish it in a course of legal justice, for there is no law by which it can be determined.

This was nearly the situation of France, when the controversy between the parties in the second convention originated. The constitution of 1791 was abolished with great unanimity, on the first day, if I mistake not, of the session. No new constitution was digested. The members of the convention divided upon the form of government most proper for France. The Jacobins were the first to employ force. They established their power by violence. This cannot be denied. If the employment of force then, was treason, the Jacobins were first guilty. They were the aggressors. The dispersion of the Fuillans, and the horrid massacres of August 10th and Sept 2d and 3d were occasioned by a banditti of the populace of Paris and Marseilles, instigated by some of that party. The party succeeded, and success has decided their cause to be just. It is this success alone, which has given the name of patriotism to the violences of the Jacobins—it is defeat Edition: current; Page: [1297] alone which has given the epithet of treason to the efforts of the Brissotines. The mere question, “whose proposed system of government is best for France” is a mere speculative point, on which people will have different opinions; and to entertain this or that opinion, can never be justly denominated treason.

I go farther, and declare my own private opinion, that in the course of a few years, a change will take place in France; and it is an equal chance that the Jacobins will be denounced as traitors, by a majority of the nation; and the statute of La Fayette or Brissot will be erected on the ruins of the statue of Marat. Factions are playing the same game that Sylla and Marius played at Rome—the same game that York and Lancaster played in England—the man who is exiled to day as a traitor, will to-morrow be recalled, and hailed as the protector of liberty. When party spirit subsides and factions lose their violence, then and not before, will tyranny give way to freedom, and the capricious sway of men, to the mild steady dominion of law.


Those who suppose France now in possession of a free government are most egregiously mistaken. At no period has France experienced a despotism so severe and bloody, as the present authority of the convention, backed by a full treasury and more than a million of disciplined troops. This severe tyranny has imprisoned and executed more French citizens in 18 months past, than had been thrown into the Bastile for three centuries, preceding its demolition.

Nor are the French now fighting for internal liberty; they are fighting against external foes; a vile league of tyrants that have unwarrantably attempted to control the internal affairs of France. God grant that they may be defeated, and severely chastized for their insolence!

It is this unprecedented league of princes that now gives union and energy to the French nation. It is perhaps the sole principle of union. When this combination shall be dissolved, and France left to act only upon herself, more than half the revolution will still remain to be effected. France will then have to conquer the errors of her legislators and the passions of a turbulent populace. She will find a defective constitution and feeble laws—she will find violent parties, strong prejudices, unbridled Edition: current; Page: [1298] licentiousness to be subdued. Instead of one tyrant or a convention of tyrants, she will find a multitude of little tyrants in each of her forty-five thousand towns and villages. Anarchy, disorder, and proscriptions will afflict her for some years; and probably the present convention and their successors will be buried in the ruins of the present paper constitution of government.

But society cannot exist without government. Experience and severe calamities will ultimately teach the French nation, that government immediately in the hands of the people, of citizens collected without law, and proceeding without order, is the most violent, irregular, capricious and dangerous species of despotism—a despotism, infinitely more terrible than the fixed steady tyranny of a monarch, as it may spring up in a moment, and unexpectedly spread devastation and ruin, at any time, in any place, and among any class of citizens. The tyranny of a monarch is the steady gale, which gives time to prepare for its ravages; it enables the seamen to clear his decks and hand his sails—the farmer to leave his field, to shut his doors and shelter himself and his herds from the impending storm. But popular despotism is a whirlwind, a tornado of passions; it collects in a moment; a calm clear sky is instantly darkened, and furious winds, bursting on their affrightened victims while helpless and unguarded, sweep away the fruits of their labor, and bury them in the ruins.

The French will learn this important truth, that the assembly of representatives, who are to govern twenty-six millions of people, is not to be a company of stage-players, whose speeches are to be regulated by the hisses and acclamations of a promiscuous collection of men in the galleries. They will learn that a Paris mob is not to govern France, and that the galleries of the convention must be silenced, or France will be enslaved. In short the French people must learn that an enthusiasm, necessary to animate her citizens in time of war, will be a source of infinite disorder in time of peace; that passions, essential to them when engaging a foreign enemy, will be fatal to their own government: that in lieu of private wills, the laws must govern; and that parties must bend their stubborn opinions to some conciliatory plan of government on which a great majority of citizens can coalesce and harmonize. When all this is done, they must learn that the executive power must be vested in a single hand, call him monarch, doge, president, governor, or what they please; and to secure Edition: current; Page: [1299] liberty, the executive must have force and energy. They must also learn a truth, sanctioned by numerous experiments, that legislative power, vested in two houses, is exercised with more safety and effect, than when vested in a single assembly. The conclusion of the whole business will be, that civil war and the blood of half a million of citizens, will compel the nation to renounce the idle theories of upstart philosophers, and return to the plain substantial maxims of wisdom and experience. Then, and not before, will France enjoy liberty.

Americans! be not deluded. In seeking liberty, France has gone beyond her. You, my countrymen, if you love liberty, adhere to your constitution of government. The moment you quit that sheet-anchor, you are afloat among the surges of passion and the rocks of error; threatened every moment with ship-wreck. Heaven grant that while Europe is agitated with a violent tempest, in which palaces are shaken, and thrones tottering to their base, the republican government of America, in which liberty and the rights of man are embarked, fortunately anchored at an immense distance, on the margin of the gale, may be enabled to ride out the storm, and land us safely on the shores of peace and political tranquillity.

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Chronology: 1795–1805

Jay’s Treaty with Great Britain is narrowly ratified by the Senate (June 24). Bitter opposition has consolidated Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party as a political power and alienated the French First Republic. The two countries are on the brink of war by the following spring.
Timothy Pickering succeeds Edmund Randolph as Secretary of State after the latter, accused of corruption, resigns (Dec. 10). A completely reorganized cabinet now includes only Federalists, with Hamilton out but still a potent influence; John Adams will retain this cabinet when he becomes second president.
Pinckney’s Treaty with Spain opens up the entire Mississippi River, including New Orleans at its mouth, to American trade.
Oliver Evans, a prolific and successful inventor, publishes the first textbook of mechanical engineering, The Young Mill-Wright’s and Miller’s Guide.
1796 Tennessee is admitted as the sixteenth state (slave-holding), with John Sevier as Governor (June 1).
British forces evacuate Detroit and other Great Lakes strongholds, as agreed in Jay’s Treaty (July–Aug.).
France refuses to receive Charles C. Pinckney as James Monroe’s replacement as American minister until “grievances have been redressed” (Aug. 22).
Washington’s Farewell Address, never delivered orally, is published in the Philadelphia Daily American Advertiser (Sept. 17).
The United States signs a treaty with Tripoli to pay annual tribute, commissions, and ransom for the release of American seamen captured by Barbary pirates and for the security of U.S. vessels (Nov. 4).
Andrew Jackson is chosen by Tennessee as the state’s first Congressional Representative (Nov.).
John Adams is elected President (71 electoral votes) and Thomas Jefferson Vice President (68 electoral votes) (Dec. 7).
Thomas Paine publishes The Age of Reason, the most influential publication of a number that attack religion as superstition.
President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson are inaugurated (Mar. 4).
The first special session of Congress is called by President Adams after the French expulsion of Pinckney, the U.S. minister (May 15).
A treaty with Tunis is signed, similar to that signed with Tripoli, with even higher sums being paid to protect American ships and seamen from Barbary pirates (Aug. 28; not ratified until Jan. 10, 1801).
In the “XYZ Affair” Talleyrand in Paris seeks a forced loan of $240,000 to France and a personal bribe to smooth things between his country and the United States. He detains the diplomat Elbridge Gerry when American commissioners refuse (Oct. 18). Undeclared naval war results, lasting until 1800.
The U.S.S. Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), a 44-gun frigate, is launched and put into highly effective service by the U.S. Navy against the French and Barbary pirates (Oct. 21).
War fears produce a variety of measures aimed at strengthening the federal government, including four laws known as the Alien and Sedition Acts outlawing political opposition (June–July); these are applied against Democratic-Republican spokesmen, editors, and printers.
The Marine Corps is established (July 11).
The Kentucky Resolutions, drafted by Jefferson, assert the power of sovereign states to determine the constitutionality or nullity of the Alien and Sedition Acts (Sept. 12). The Virginia Resolutions, composed by Madison, are similarly enacted to oppose the unconstitutional exercise of federal power in Virginia (Dec. 24).
Eli Whitney invents the basic techniques for mass production and builds an assembly line for the production of army muskets on a government contract.
1799 A new peace commission is sent to Paris by Adams upon Talleyrand’s assurance that they will be respectfully received (Feb. 25).
A new Kentucky Resolution, also drafted by Jefferson, is enacted against the rebuttal that only the federal judiciary can decide on the constitutionality of laws. The resolution insists that states may nullify congressional enactments (Nov. 22).
The Sixth Congress meets, the last to have a Federalist majority (Dec. 2).
Washington suddenly dies (Dec. 14). Napoleon Bonaparte proclaims a week of mourning in France, and honors are paid him in England (Dec. 14).
The Second Great Awakening begins.
The federal government moves from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. (June).
With the Treaty of Morfontaine (“Convention of 1800”), naval war between the United States and France is ended (Sept. 30).
Congress convenes in Washington and John and Abigail Adams occupy the new presidential residence, the White House (Nov. 17).
1801 OVERCOMING EVIL WITH GOOD, Stanley Griswold
John Marshall, appointed by Adams and confirmed by the Senate, takes the oath of office as Chief Justice of the United States (Jan. 20–Feb. 4).
Electoral ballots from the 1800 election are finally counted and, after an all-night session and 36 rounds of voting to break a deadlock, Jefferson (with Hamilton’s help) is elected President, Aaron Burr Vice President (Feb. 11).
War against Barbary pirates results as the Pasha of Tripoli declares war on the United States (May 14). The struggle lasts until 1805.
The Great Revival of the West, part of the second Great Awakening, begins at a Presbyterian camp meeting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky (Aug. 6).
1803 The Supreme Court Marbury v. Madison decision establishes judicial review by declaring an act of Congress null and void (Feb. 24).
Ohio becomes the seventeenth state, the first in the Union in which slavery is illegal from the beginning (Mar. 1).
The Louisiana Purchase treaty with France for $15 million doubles the nation’s land area, from which thirteen new states will be created (May 2).
The three-year Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific coast begins (Aug. 31).
New England Federalists (including some clergy) secretly connive with New Yorkers and Vice President Burr to secede and form a Northern or Northeastern Confederacy. In the New York gubernatorial race, Hamilton opposes Burr, who intends to become president of the confederacy.
1804 Democratic-Republican Party leaders set out to impeach and remove Federalist judges, such as Federal District Judge John Pickering of New Hampshire and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase (Jan.–Mar.).
Aaron Burr kills Alexander Hamilton in a duel at Weehawken, New Jersey (July 11).
Jefferson is re-elected for a second term (162 electoral votes), with George Clinton of New York elected as Vice President (Dec. 5).
Jefferson is inaugurated for a second term, with Vice President Clinton (Mar. 4); Madison continues as Secretary of State, Albert Gallatin as Secretary of the Treasury.
A treaty is signed ending the Tripolitanian War (June 4).
The Lewis and Clark expedition arrives at the mouth of the Columbia River (Nov. 7) and builds Fort Clatsop (near present-day Astoria, Oregon) for winter quarters.
The Ninth Congress convenes with decisive Democratic-Republican majorities in both House and Senate (Dec. 9).
The University of South Carolina is opened.
Mercy Otis Warren publishes the three-volume The Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution.
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Bishop James Madison (1749–1812). A cousin of President James Madison, Madison was educated as a lawyer under George Wythe after graduation with high honors from the College of William and Mary in 1771. He became a professor of philosophy and mathematics at the college but soon decided upon the ministry. He was ordained in England in 1775 as an Anglican priest. Two years later he became president of William and Mary and held that position until his death. A strong advocate of independence, he went so far, we are told, as to speak of the republic—rather than kingdom—of heaven. He served as the captain of a militia company of his students and saw considerable action during the Revolution. After the war, Madison devoted himself to reviving the College of William and Mary; in 1784 he taught political economy using Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations as a textbook. As a surveyor and cartographer, he established the boundary between Virginia and Pennsylvania and later drew the map of Virginia commonly called Madison’s Map (issued first in 1807 and corrected in 1818). He was a leading scientist of the day and corresponded with Thomas Jefferson about scientific matters.

Madison also devoted himself to the reorganization of the Episcopal Church in Virginia after the war. Consecrated the first Bishop of Virginia (in Canterbury in 1790), he was the third of three American bishops through whom the episcopate came to the United States. Disestablished and with its properties under attack, the church faced formidable problems that, rather than being solved during Madison’s tenure, further deepened.

The sermon reprinted here was preached on February 19, 1795, proclaimed a day of national thanksgiving and prayer by President Washington.

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Only fear the Lord, and serve him; for consider how great things he hath done for you.

[I] Samuel XII. 2[4].

There are few situations more interesting to the human race, than that which the people of America this day presents. The temples of the living God are every where, throughout this rising empire, this day, crowded, I trust, with worshippers, whose hearts, impressed with a just and lively sense of the great things, which he hath done for them, pour forth, in unison, the grateful tribute of praise and thanksgiving. Yes, this day, brethren, “the voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous”; and with reason, for the history of nations doth not exhibit a people who ever had more cause to offer up to the great author of every good the most fervent expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving. Let, my brethren, the sons of irreligion, wrapped in their dark and gloomy system of fatality, refuse to open their eyes to the great luminous proofs of providential government, which America displays; let them turn from a light, which their weak vision cannot bear; but let the righteous, let those who trust in God, who can trace in that good and glorious being, the relations of father, friend and governor, let them, with eagle eyes look up to that full blaze of salvation, which he hath vouchsafed to this new world. Permit me then, upon this occasion, to turn your attention to those great things, which the Lord hath done for us, to those manifold displays of divine providence, which the history of America exhibits; and let the subject afford an opportunity to revive within us sentiments of lively gratitude, and excite sincere resolutions to fear the Lord, and to serve him; in a word, to increase daily in piety, and in all those noble affections of the soul which dignify the christian and the patriot.

I. Who can tell how many ages had been swallowed up in the all-absorbing gulph of time, before the bold navigator first essayed to visit these distant regions of the earth? Who can tell, how long this western world had been the habitation of the listless savage, or the wild beasts of the forest? At these questions chronology drops her Edition: current; Page: [1310] epochs, as incapable of conducting her to periods so remote, and which have escaped her grasp. The ways of heaven must oft appear to us, weak mortals, dark and intricate. But the first suggestion, which here presents itself, is, that providence seems to have thrown a veil over this portion of the globe, in order to conceal it from the eyes of the nations of the east, until the destined period had arrived for the regeneration of mankind, in this new world, after those various other means, which the wisdom of the Almighty had permitted to operate, in the old, had proved ineffectual. In vain had reason, the hand-maid of pure religion, long attempted to convince men of the reciprocal duties, which equality and fraternity impose. Still there would arise some one,

  • “of proud ambitious heart, who, not content
  • with fair equality, fraternal state,
  • would arrogate dominion undeserved
  • over his brethren, and quite dispossess
  • concord and law of nature from the earth.”*

In vain had even thy dispensation of love and peace, blessed Jesus! long essayed to disarm ambition of the ensanguined sword, and to diffuse benevolence, equality and fraternity among the human race. Millions still groaned under the heavy pressure, which tyranny imposed. Yes, even thy gospel of love, of universal fraternity, had been, too often, perverted into the most formidable system of oppression; and mankind, instead of seeing it diffuse the heavenly rays of philanthropy, too frequently beheld it as imposing a yoke, to degrade and enslave them. The princes of the earth sought not for the sacred duties, which it enjoined; but they sought to render it the sanction of their exterminating vengeance, or their deep laid systems of usurpation. Is not the history of almost all Europe pregnant with proofs of this calamitous truth? If you can point to some small portion, where the religion of the blessed Jesus, untrammeled with political usurpations, was left to operate its happy effects upon the passions and the conduct of men; or where toleration extended wide her arms of mercy to embrace the whole family of Christ, the spot appears like a solitary star, which in the midst of night, beams forth alone, whilst Edition: current; Page: [1311] clouds and thick darkness obscure the rest of the innumerable host of heaven. Alas! what avails the voice of reason or religion, when the lust of domination has usurped the soul! At the shrine of this fell demon, the human race was sacrificed by thousands. Nay, too many of the sons of Europe are still bound with cords to the altars of ambition, and there immolated, not only by thousands, but by tens of thousands. Do you doubt the assertion, afflictive as it seems to our brethren of the old world? The last four years have, in their flight, scarcely wanted a moment to testify the melancholy truth. I will not add the long catalogue of those innumerable scourges, which, from time to time, have visited Europe; I will not speak of those various tempests, which, by divine command, have so often shaken the guilty nations of the east, but which seem in vain to have uttered the voice of warning and reproof: Domination still rivetted her iron chains; the fangs of governments; avaricious, arbitrary and vindictive, entered even into the souls of the suffering people. The heritage of the Lord were only as sheep destined to be shorn or slaughtered, whilst the unfeeling despot exacted in return, not obsequious obedience only, but even professions of gratitude for the innumerable blessings, which flowed from his hallowed protection. How were these chains to be burst asunder? How was the human race to be restored to their inherent rights, rights, which the God of nature consecrated at the birth of every individual? How was the dignity of man to be vindicated? How were those sentiments of equality, benevolence and fraternity, which reason, and religion, and nature enjoin, to reassume their sovereignty over the human soul, and to dash against the heads of usurpers the chains, the burthens, the oppressions, which had so long brought down the grey hairs of the multitude with sorrow to the grave? How could the principles of a revolution so important, so essential for the happiness of the human species, be generated, but by raising up, as it were, a new race of men, in some remote, some blessed clime, where, from their infancy, unfettered by those errors, which time appears to sanctify, they should be trained not only to a knowledge, but to a just sense of the duty of asserting and maintaining their rights; and above all, where the love of equality, the basis of all rights and all social happiness, should be congenial to man? This favoured region, favoured indeed of heaven, is America. It is here, a knowledge of those political truths, which the immortal Sydneys and Edition: current; Page: [1312] the Lockes of former years investigated with philosophic eye, bursts spontaneous forth. It is here, that men, led by the hand of nature, their minds unawed and unobscured by opinions and customs as barbarous and unfriendly to social rights as the dark chaotic ages, which gave them birth, see and acknowledge as axioms, what philosophers have toiled to establish by deductions, long and intricate. It is in America, that the germs of the universal redemption of the human race from domination and oppression have already begun to be developed; it is in America, that we see a redintegration of divine love for man, and that the voice of heaven itself seems to call to her sons, go ye forth and disciple all nations, and spread among them the gospel of equality and fraternity.*

II. These considerations present to our minds the first traces of the beneficent designs of providence in the history of this new world. Nor ought it, in the 2d place, to be here forgotten, that the current, or general tendency of providence is also to be traced back to the source, whence the present free and enlightened race of America sprung. For surely, our fore-fathers, amidst the wreck of human rights, and the convulsive tempests with which ambition had so often overwhelmed the nations of the east, still evinced, at times, no small portion of that etherial spirit, that ardent love of liberty, which glows in the American breast. It was this indomitable spirit, this attachment to the inherent rights of man, stronger infinitely than the fear of those storms, which agitate the immense atlantic, or of the fierce and cruel tenants of the howling wilderness, or the ravages of disease, and famine and death itself, which urged our fore-fathers to these distant shores. Yes, brethren, it was this noble principle, this love of liberty, which defying all dangers, conducted our fore-fathers to America; but who doth not see, that this principle, whilst it only could prompt Edition: current; Page: [1313] to the bold enterprize, was no where to be found so pure, so energetic as in Britain? Who doth not see, that thus to have transported it to America, thus to have incorporated it with the primary social institutions of this country, may be justly deemed an event most fortunate for mankind, nay, most worthy of providence itself? Had this principle been equally transported to the fertile plains of Mexico, or Peru, instead of the Auri sacra sames, they also would have had their apostles, nay, their martyrs to liberty. Yes, even Mexico, and Peru, e’re this distant period, would have had their Washington, would have unfurled the banners of liberty, and would have fought, and bled, and conquered. If then we dare attempt with mortal eye to trace those causes, by which the Almighty operates, it will not be thought presumptuous, I trust, not only to ascribe to his directive wisdom the introduction of a principle, which here fostered, will redeem the captive nations of the earth; but also, the introduction of it, at a time, when its active, but daily increasing energy should accelerate the great and glorious revolution, which it has already effected in America, which it has commenced in Europe, and which will not be arrested in its progress, until the complete restoration of the human race to their inherent rights be accomplished, throughout the globe. Let the tyrants of the earth set themselves in array against this principle; “they shall be chased as the chaff of the mountain before the wind, and like the down of the thistle before the whirlwind.”*

III. But these reflections, pleasing as they are to the friends of piety, of reason and of liberty, give way to others, excited by more obvious dispensations of providence. Suppose, my brethren, when our forefathers here first rested the soles of their feet, delivered from those waters, which seemed almost to cover the face of the whole earth, the guardian angel of America withdrawing the curtain of time, had opened to their view the prospect, which this day presents; had shewn to them, America, free, independent, and holding an eminent rank among the nations of the earth; had shewn to them her sons and her daughters, numerous as the stars of heaven, assembled in the houses of their God, and with one voice, offering up the grateful incense of adoration, praise and thanks-giving, “for the great things that he hath done for them”; had shewn to them the first instance, Edition: current; Page: [1314] which the world has ever exhibited, of written social compacts, together with her plans of government, founded on the eternal basis of wisdom, equality and justice; had shewn to them, the thousand blessings, which peace, from her horn of plenty, scatters round, with the arts and sciences gradually advancing in her train; had shewn to them, her navies, loaded not with the desolating weapons of war, but with the fruits of the earth, vexing with their prows the most distant seas; had shewn to them the bright portrait of that heroic citizen, whose prudence, whose fortitude, and whose wisdom shine equally refulgent in war as in peace; and lastly, had shewn to them, the fairest portion of the old world, by the example of America, by the influence of that energetic principle, which she had nurtured and matured, awaking as from a dream, “putting on strength as in the antient days, in the generations of old,” uprooting the deep founded systems of usurpation, and gathering the oppressed under the wings of liberty and fraternity: And whilst he presented the glorious, the animating prospect, should say to them, all these events, my sons, great and astonishing as they are, shall come to pass within the short period, of a patriarchal life; would they not have fallen down upon their faces, and worshipping the God of their fathers, exclaimed[,] “This is the Lords doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes”? We, brethren, fortunate as we are, have lived to see this triumphal day. And is there a soul here present, is there one throughout this rising empire, who doth not trace, in the eventful history of America, the conspicuous displays of the hand of providence? Is there one, who is not ready also to exclaim, “it is the Lords doing”? Where, in what records of mankind, will he discover a progress from infancy to manhood, so accelerated, so astonishing in all its stages, so superior to all those ordinary means, by which empires are matured? I will not call your attention to that heroic contest, which so lately distinguished this country, and which, unequal, bold and hazardous as it appeared in its commencement, soon terminated in the establishment of liberty and independence, soon held aloft to the nations of the earth, the sublime example, which called, and still calls aloud, “awake, awake, put on strength, O nations of the earth; awake as in the antient days, in the generations of old.”* I will not retrace those scenes of blood, of Edition: current; Page: [1315] horror and desolation, through which the patriot sons of America once triumphant passed. Ministers of the gospel! be it yours to bind up and to heal the wounds, which contentions and wars inflict. But ah! who does not remember, when the fate of this rising empire, nay of mankind, hung trembling between the fury of the oppressor, and the weakness of the oppressed? how many were our prayers to the God of battles! how often did we look forwards upon the mightiness of the adversary; how often backwards upon our own imbecility, upon our wives and our tender infants? In that awful crisis, who does not remember, that in God alone was our trust? Yes, “O people, saved by the Lord, it was his right hand and his holy arm,” which rescued thee from the strength of the lion and the bear; it was the same wise and gracious providence, which delivered the youthful unarmed David from the hands of Goliath, accoutred as he was, “with a sword, and with a spear, and with a Shield,” which also delivered thee, from the hands of the mightiest of nations.

Do these our conclusions appear to some to savour of presumptive arrogance, or do we discover to the philosophic mind an enthusiastic imbecility in ascribing these events, so peculiar to the annals of America, to the particular direction of providence? Let such bethink themselves, if such there be, that it is a just reliance upon the superintending providence of God, a reliance dictated by the concurrent voice of reason, of philosophy and religion, which compels the humble, the grateful and the wise to consider all those dispositions or events, which so remarkably coincide with the general plan of the moral government of the world, as indications of the design and direction of omnipotence. Causes and effects are, doubtless, in the hands of him who willed their connexion. But his will is the general happiness. They who indulge this idea, so consolatory to man, will therefore consider it as the homage which is due to the creator, regenerator and preserver of the universe, to ascribe to his superior direction, effects so concordant with his goodness, and which so greatly transcend all human means. Yes, brethren, if the effects, which we have, in your hearing, thus slightly traced; if the period of time when America was discovered, the necessity and the consequent production of other means for the restoration of human rights, than those, which had hitherto operated; if her origin, and the consequent possession of a principle, which, nurtured and matured, is now pervading, and will Edition: current; Page: [1316] animate and excite the whole family of mankind to vindicate their lost rights; if her astonishing progress from infancy to the station, which she now possesses, a progress, which the opposition of a ten-fold force served only to accelerate: if, become free and independent, having accomplished the most unparalleled revolution, a revolution unstained by fratricide, or the blood of the innocent, she hath given to nations the first lesson by which their rights may be preserved, and men reassume their native dignity, by realizing that sacred compact, which before existed only in idea, and by accurately delineating the boundary beyond which, her servants, whether legislators or magistrates, dare not pass; if she hath established upon a rock, the empire of laws, and not of men; if America, as a tender and affectionate daughter, is ready, from her exuberant breasts, to afford the milk of regeneration to her aged and oppressed relatives; if, in short, from a beginning the most inauspicious, she hath thus outstript all political calculation, thus risen to this day of glory, thus ascended on high, thus triumphed over every obstacle, and if all these be effects worthy of the divine interposition, then we will still cherish the fond idea, we will cling to the full persuasion, that our God hath been, “our strength, our refuge, and our fortress,” a God, who, at the birth of creation, destined man for liberty, for virtue and for happiness, not for oppression, vice and misery.

IV. But, my brethren, to rest contented with merely viewing the hand of providence, or in acknowledging the plan of divine wisdom, which is here operating for the general felicity, would be to halt at the threshhold of the temple of God. Gratitude, warm and fervent, united to a sincere resolution “to fear and to serve him,” is the return, which the Almighty beneficence claims from every worshipper. It is the first sacrifice of a heart capable of being touched by acts of unbounded love, by deeds of mercy and kindness so eminently extended not to us only, but, through our agency, to the whole human race. I confess to you, brethren, who detest ingratitude even to man, as the sure but melancholy symptom of a heart, dark, gloomy, and void of every virtuous sensibility, when I recall to mind the past, contemplate the present, and pursuing the confederacy of causes, look forward to those blessings of peace, of order, of justice and of liberty, which are daily advancing with an accelerated progress, my soul becomes sublimed with the grand idea of the undeviating love of God to Edition: current; Page: [1317] man; I trace in the moral, as well as in the physical world, the evident vestiges of a Providence, all wise, all merciful, and all gracious: my hopes, temporal as well as eternal, instead of fluctuating in the uncertain ocean of those degrading sentiments, which overwhelm the soul with fear and despondency, are anchored even at the footstool of the throne of God. Yes, brethren, struck with the awful image of a goodness so generous and so extended, my heart overflows with gratitude, I form new resolutions to fear and to serve him, I exclaim with the Psalmist—“Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. O let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth.”

But, brethren, important considerations still demand our attention. Has heaven been thus propitious; are we possessed of all those blessings which flow from governments founded in wisdom, justice and equality; doth the morning of America break forth refulgent with unclouded glory? Then it behoves us, above all things, to inquire, how are these blessings to be preserved? how shall we ensure to her a meridian splendor, worthy of such a morning? This inquiry immediately resolves itself into another. What is there in this sublunary state, that can attract the smiles of heaven, or ensure political happiness, but virtue? Never was there a mortal so depraved, never was there a conscience so deaf to that internal voice, which always whispers truth, but must acknowledge, that virtue only gives a title to hope for the favour of that high and lofty one, who inhabiteth eternity. Fellow-citizens, let virtue then, I entreat you, be the ruling principle, the polar star, which should influence every sentiment, and guide every action, since it alone will conduct us into the haven of felicity. But will you trust, for the diffusion of virtue, to that political morality, which a vain philosophy would substitute in the room of those lessons, which the heavenly teacher delivered? Shall virtue trickle from the oozy bed of political catechisms, or shall it gush, pure and in full stream, from the rock of our salvation? Ah! brethren, the moment that we drop the idea of a God, the remunerator of virtue, but the avenger of iniquity; the moment we abandon that divine system of equality, fraternity, and universal benevolence, which the blessed Jesus taught and exemplified; the moment that religion, the pure and undefiled religion, which heaven, in compassion to the infirmity of human reason, vouchsafed to mortals, loses its influence over Edition: current; Page: [1318] their hearts, from that fatal moment, farewell to public and private happiness, farewell, a long farewell to virtue, to patriotism, to liberty! Virtue, such as republics and heaven require, must have its foundation in the heart; it must penetrate the whole man; it must derive its obligations and its sanctions, not from the changeable ideas of the political moralist, or the caprice of the wisest of human legislators, but from the unchangeable father of the universe, the God of love, whose laws, and whose will we are incited to obey by motives, the most powerful that can actuate the human soul. Men must see and feel, that it is God himself, their maker and their judge, who demands obedience to duties, which constitute their individual, their social, their eternal happiness. Then, and not till then, will virtue reign triumphant in the hearts of citizens; then will she have her sacrifices in the midst of the deepest obscurity, as well as in the open day, in the most private and secret retirements, as well as upon the house tops.

There is, we will grant, a sublime philosophy, which may form her sages, and even her virtuous and heroic sages. But, will her abstract doctrines concerning moral obligation, stript of those awful sanctions, which religion annexes, touch the hearts of an entire nation, the poor, the simple, the unlettered, as well as the learned and the wise? No, brethren, these sages of philosophy will appear, once perhaps, in a century; her lessons of wisdom, admitting them to possess the efficacy contended for, can be extended but to a few; whilst religion diffuses her soul-saving leaven thro’ the whole political mass. It is not for the learned and wise only, that she reserves the knowledge of her heavenly precepts; they are addressed to the whole family of mankind; the whole universe is her school. She has, moreover, this distinguishing advantage; she lays her divine hands upon the infant, and whilst she embraces him with the arms of mercy, stamps upon his tender, susceptible mind, the indelible, but just and awful idea of a God, the judge as well as the creator of the universe, a God, whose all-seeing eye delights only in virtue, a God, who has promised thro’ Jesus Christ, a glorious and ever blessed immortality as the reward of well-doing, whilst the torturing hour of shame, remorse and misery is shewn to await the impious and the wicked. Thus taught by religion, man becomes acquainted with his real character; instead of being amenable only to human laws, whose utmost vigilance he may and Edition: current; Page: [1319] often does elude, he sees himself accountable to a being, as just as merciful, as omnipotent as omniscient. He finds himself destined, not to the narrow range of the beasts that perish, but to immortal life. The bright prospect invigorates his soul; sentiments of conscious dignity elevate him above what is low or mean; his views are fixed upon what is truly great and good, patriotic and brave; no tears appal him, but confident in his God, he evinces himself, whether in adversity or prosperity, the inflexible friend of justice and humanity.

And yet, great God! how many are there among the sons of men, urged, we hope, rather by the delusive phantoms of their imaginations, than by the lust of wicked passions, who would tear from the human heart, prostrate in the dust, nay obliterate from the face of the earth every vestige of that divine, that beneficent system of justice, fraternity and equality, which Jesus Christ delivered! rash, unthinking mortals! listen, at least, to the prayer which that divine system, ever breathing charity and compassion, still offers up for its vindictive enemies; “Father! forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

Fellow-citizens, it is an easy task for those who may have the honour of addressing an American audience this day, to point out the excellencies of our civil governments, to shew their superior aptitude for the promotion of political happiness, to evince that obedience to laws, constitutionally enacted, is the only means of preserving liberty, and that every expression of the public will is obligatory upon every citizen; to prove, that representative republics, instead of being the prolific parents of anarchy and confusion, are, on the contrary, of all the forms of government, under which men have yet associated, either thro’ compulsion or choice, the most promotive of private and public happiness, the most susceptible of that energy, which is equally capable of curbing the licentiousness of the multitude, or of frustrating the wicked designs of the ambitious; it is easy for them to shew, that virtue is the vital principle of a republic, that unless a magnanimous spirit of patriotism animates every breast, unless a sincere and ardent love for justice, for temperance, for prudence, for fortitude, in short, for all those qualities, which dignify human nature, pervades, enlivens, invigorates the whole mass of citizens, these fair superstructures of political wisdom must soon crumble into dust. Certainly, my brethren, it is a fundamental maxim, that virtue is the Edition: current; Page: [1320] soul of a republic. But, zealous for the prosperity of my country, I will repeat, and in these days, it is of infinite moment to insist, that without religion, I mean rational religion, the religion which our Saviour himself delivered, not that of fanatics or inquisitors, chimæras and shadows are substantial things compared with that virtue, which those who reject the authority of religion would recommend to our practice. Ye then who love your country[,] if you expect or wish, that real virtue and social happiness should be preserved among us, or, that genuine patriotism and a dignified obedience to law, instead of that spirit of disorganizing anarchy, and those false and hollow pretences to patriotism, which are so pregnant with contentions, insurrections and misery, should be the distinguishing characteristics of Americans; or, that, the same Almighty arm which hath hitherto protected your country, and conducted her to this day of glory, should still continue to shield and defend her, remember, that your first and last duty is “to fear the Lord and to serve him”; remember, that in the same proportion as irreligion advances, virtue retires; remember, that in her stead, will succeed factions, ever ready to prostitute public good to the most nefarious private ends, whilst unbounded licentiousness, and a total disregard to the sacred names of liberty and of patriotism will here once more, realize that fatal catastrophe, which so many free states have already experienced. Remember, the law of the Almighty is, they shall expire, with their expiring virtue. God of all nature! Father of the human spirit, preserve these prosperous, these happy republics from so dreadful a calamity. May thy gracious providence, which hath hitherto nurtured, protected, and conducted them to this day of praise and thanksgiving, ever be the supreme object of their regard? May the blessings already received, inspire every heart with just sentiments of gratitude, and with the inflexible resolution to perform those duties which become us as christians, and as citizens. May peace and happiness, truth and justice, order and freedom, religion and piety ever proclaim thy praises, thy providential goodness, thy love to man, not only in this land of liberty, but wherever the human race is found. Amen.

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Stephen Peabody (1741–1819). A native of Andover, Massachusetts, Peabody was a Harvard graduate in the class of 1769. As the oldest member of his class, entering at twenty-two, he was nicknamed Pater Omnium by classmates. Peabody was a ringleader and cut-up in college, and his diary for 1767 is regarded by Clifford K. Shipton as “the most revealing document relating to colonial education which has come down to us” (Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 17:207n). Peabody’s extensive diaries, his principal writings, provide a detailed portrait of himself as parson and of his times in New England.

Peabody settled in Atkinson, New Hampshire, in 1772 and remained there as pastor for the rest of his life. He was an orthodox Calvinist who measured his orthodoxy by agreement with the Bible at every point, and he avoided any hint of being a member of this or that theological faction. He was especially critical of emotional preachers (meaning Baptists and Methodists) but was himself an emotional preacher “who wept at his own pathos, or in sympathy with his bereaved hearers” (ibid., p. 212). He served as a chaplain during the Revolution with Colonel Poor’s regiment on Winter Hill. Dartmouth College awarded him an honorary A.M. in 1792. Peabody loved to play the fiddle and sing, often serving in the pulpit as a one-man choir, though he was sometimes joined by his household pet, Little Dog. (Little Dog’s death received more attention in his diary than that of any human being.) Peabody’s swift conquest of the heart of his second wife, the widow Elizabeth Smith Shaw, in 1795, became a classic of New England folklore. His stepson, William Smith Shaw, became secretary to President John Adams, and Reverend Peabody and his wife were frequent visitors to the Adams household in Quincy. In addition to preaching and catechizing, Peabody farmed, and he and Elizabeth kept the Atkinson Academy, admitting girls to it after 1794, to the shock of the community.

This election sermon, preached in Concord, New Hampshire, on June 11, 1797, celebrates republican government as the rule of law in the United States and as a unique improvement over monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy as practiced through the ages.

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Moreover, thou shalt provide out of all the people, able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

Exodus XVIII. 21.

In the great scale of beings, mankind hold a dignified station. The human mind, capable of improvement, under advantageous cultivation, progresses in knowledge and refinements, honourary in their nature, and ornamental in their consequences. Individuals, with privileges of this kind, shine as lights in the world. Societies, composed of characters improved in science and virtue, have every advantage in their social connection.

By long experience, the jarring passions and interests of men, shew the necessity of government. Various have been the forms, by which mankind have enjoyed distinguished privileges. A particular discussion of all the principles of government, will not be expected upon this occasion, as many of this respectable audience are better acquainted with them, than the speaker. An attempt of this, would be a departure from duty.

That ecclesiastical constitution, exhibited in the sacred scriptures, is the foundation upon which the ministers of religion are placed: It contains those rules and regulations which we are called to vindicate, and by it we are furnished with a code of laws and precepts, admirably suited to governors, and governed—rules designed to promote general happiness here, and to prepare for a far more exalted state in the regions of immortality. These are peculiar excellencies in the oracles of truth.

In the early ages of time, government was confined to private families; but when men multiplied, it was consistent with infinite wisdom to point out methods by which there should be a government upon a more extensive scale. This took place with the people of Israel, while in the land of Egypt. The Egyptians, under a pretence that Israel would increase in numbers and power, treated them in a manner incompatible with humanity. Whereupon the Lord was pleased to provide for them a deliverer—to raise up Moses, remarkably to preserve him in his infancy, to appear unto him in a burning bush, to Edition: current; Page: [1326] appoint him a ruler, and to accompany him with such proofs of his divine mission, as were convincing to a mind not clouded with ignorance, or blinded with prejudice.

The good man, with reluctance, modestly accepted the appointment, with Aaron his brother, his assistant in the arduous task. Mutually supporting each other, the Lord was with them. Happy for them, and thrice happy for the people, they were united by the most endearing ties, when placed, the one a political, the other an ecclesiastical leader. Aiming at the same great object, under the particular direction of heaven, they went on, hand in hand, through a series of unexampled trials, conducting and protecting their charge, as faithful shepherds guide their flocks. Connected with an ingrateful people, those worthies met with singular difficulties in their way, were censured when performing the will of God, and exerting every power to advance the best interest of society.

Jethro, the priest of Midian, father-in-law to Moses, anxious for his son’s welfare, and sensible that his task was insupportable, proposed some alterations, that a part of the burden might be removed from him, and placed upon others. These we have in the theme under consideration—the manner of executing their several trusts specified—the extent of their power defined—and, in cases of intricacy, an appeal open to the chief magistrate, their last resort. Here the privileges of the people were in a great measure to be secured by the amiable characters of their rulers, and especially by his who was their supreme judge, and under the immediate influence of the king of kings.

This was the form of government then established: It was a theocracy; and its permanency shews it was suited to the genius of the people in that period of the world, as it continued in the days of Moses, Joshua, and till Samuel’s time, sanctioned with the approbation of heaven. They were governed by wise judges, given them by a God who was their guardian and friend, till his favour was forfeited by a revolt from him, casting off his authority, and determining to have a king of their own, in imitation of the heathen nations. This conduct proceeding from a factious disposition, was displeasing to God: Yet he granted their request, gave them a king—but a king in judgment.

The oracles of truth are not decisive, respecting any particular, permanent form of civil polity. We are left at liberty to adopt rules Edition: current; Page: [1327] and laws agreeable to our inclinations. In a state of ignorance and barbarism, a despotic power may be necessary; but where knowledge is diffused, and reason enlightened, the bastile bars are seen—the shackles eluded.

A republican government, as defined by an eminent writer, “in which all men, rich and poor, magistrates and subjects, officers and people, masters and servants, the first citizen and the last, are equally subject to the laws,” is doubtless the most unexceptionable. This is the general principle which supports the government of united America, happily removed from that monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy, which have injured mankind. This form has the public good for its principal object: It rests primarily in the hands of the people; and when delegated, is exercised a limited period, and returns to its origin. A people with a good constitution, judicious laws, in the hands of an executive authority influenced by the maxims of wisdom and goodness, attentive to their true interest, will acquire strength and stability, as they improve in knowledge and virtue.

The directions given in my text, are adapted to any people, under whatever form of government, when wisdom and probity are their guide. And in this view, we trust they are peculiarly applicable to the people of America, and demand attention in all our elections to fill the offices of state, supreme and subordinate. Though under dissimilar forms, electors may be different, yet the characters of the elected should be the same.

The subject before us exhibits the duty of a people in the choice of their rulers, and delineates the leading traits essential to those in public office.

I shall attempt to make some observations upon the several particulars here specified, to form good rulers—speak of the duties of their station—then draw some inferences—and conclude with addresses suited to the present occasion.

The first particular in the choice of rulers, should be natural abilities. Able men, are such as have been distinguished by the God of nature. As in the ecclesiastical department, a novice is excluded; so in the civil, men of sense and judgment are to be preferred: Men of fortitude, of resolution, who fear not the faces of the unprincipled; but when occasion requires, can oppose them with firmness: Men of clear heads, and determined hearts. But it is not enough that men Edition: current; Page: [1328] should have natural endowments; more is necessary: The gifts of nature should be improved by study and close application, and truth investigated in the paths of science. There should be a general knowledge of the principles of natural and political law: And without this, men are exposed; they are easily deceived, and led into errors, disgraceful to themselves, and injurious to their constituents. Designing individuals have every advantage of the illiterate, to influence their conduct to the accomplishment of sinister purposes. A good natural understanding, therefore, and decent and liberal acquirements, are necessary ingredients in the able statesman.

Another qualification in an accomplished ruler here recommended, is the fear of God. This being granted, an atheist can have no part or lot in this matter. A being who is believed not to exist, cannot be feared. But besides these, there are those in an enlightened age of the world, who acknowledge the being of God, and yet are not afraid to offend him by trampling on his authority. Such are poorly qualified for eminent stations in government. An important trait in the character of a good ruler is wanting.

The fear of God is the best guard against temptations to a deviation from the rules of right. By this, human passions are regulated, and men are influenced to “run the ways of God’s commandments, rendering to all their dues—tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.” A consciousness of his omnipresence to whom we are all accountable, fixes a lasting impression upon the heart, fans every spark of moral rectitude, and calls forth patriotic exertions. The belief of an entire dependance on him, is an impenetrable mound against an inundation of immoralities: It is the best constructed fortress against the savage artillery of the prince of darkness. Shielded with a helmet from the God of armies, the intrepid ruler marches at the head of his battalions, with prudence, fortitude, and perseverance, which insure protection, and lead on to victory. Examples of wisdom and virtue, originating from the fear of God, have a commanding influence upon the human mind; and in all our elections, such qualifications should invariably direct our choice.

We pass on to a third particular essential in Jethro’s rulers. They were to be men of truth.

Possessed of a principle opposed to falsehood and deceit, they were Edition: current; Page: [1329] to be eminent for their integrity. This was a qualification necessary in the law-givers of Israel. To a man of this description, “his yea, and nay, are Amen.” His tongue is a faithful index of his mind. He strictly observes the words of inspiration, “Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour.” Sensible that he is always in the presence of the God of truth, he never allowedly deviates from its laws. Such a character, the more it is examined, the more illustrious it will appear: It will be “like the path of the just,” pourtrayed by the wise king Solomon, “which as the rising light, shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

One thing more, necessary for accomplished rulers. They should hate covetousness.

However contemptible a covetous disposition may be, in the sight of God and man, we are constrained to acknowledge it is too prevalent to give full liberty for any one class of men to cast a stone at others. Rigid parsimony should not be indulged in a ruler; and it certainly is not in one who fears God, and has a sacred regard to truth. A principle of virtue is discovered, in a generous disregard to personal wealth, when it comes in competition with the interest of the public. When a good ruler is engaged in his office, his duty to the station arrests his first attention; self, has only a secondary place in his mind. When called to act in public, he leaves his private concerns behind him; they drop, till he has faithfully performed his higher engagements. Presuming that the electors in this state for the present year, so far as they have proceeded, have been actuated by the foregoing principles; that they have provided able men, fearers of God, men of truth, haters of covetousness, to compose the present legislative assembly—let us proceed to offer a few thoughts upon the duties annexed to the trust reposed in them.

It was the advice of Jethro to Moses, that the proposed characters should be placed over the people, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. With great propriety this may be applied to the several officers of a republic, in a succession, from the first magistrate. The federal and state governments in America, have furnished us with constitutions and laws, by which the duties peculiar to each office are ascertained. Our laws, however, are not like those of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be altered: The people have always a right to the exercise of their power, as the Edition: current; Page: [1330] public interest may require. And may we not affirm, that in theory there is no government so rational as where elections are frequent, the elected under the public eye, and to continue during the people’s pleasure? This is a privilege we enjoy. Our annual elections give us an opportunity to select our best citizens to transact our public and most important business, to enact new laws, and make appointments according to the exigencies of the state.

A general assembly to a republic, in many respects stands in the place of a Moses to Israel; the refulgence of whose virtues should resemble the face of Moses, after he had received the law of the Lord on Mount Sinai. The authority of a state is to provide men duly qualified to act in the necessary departments. The reins of government are to be given into their hands for those purposes. Their trust is important, and when they are under the solemnity of an oath, they are bound by the strongest ties! By them, the duties of every office should be contemplated previous to a choice. And any station had better remain vacant, than be improperly filled. Those passages of inspiration will always remain true, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”

A conscientious regard to the principles of rectitude in general, and a strict adherence to the duties annexed to each office, either in the legislative or executive, whether relative to the civil, military, or ecclesiastical departments, instamp upon it a dignity, by which the vicious are restrained, and the virtuous encouraged. In short, the duties incumbent upon mankind, relative to their God and each other, obligatory upon all, and those peculiarly adapted to the various offices in a well regulated government, will be regarded with undiverted attention by every man deserving public confidence.

Permit me to enumerate some of the objects which naturally present themselves to the mind of the wise guardians of a country. The most perfect body of human laws ever framed, have their defects; and these are made obvious by practice. In their operations, they in all respects do not answer the designs proposed. Wise legislators, upon a discovery of imperfections, by which the citizens are embarrassed or wronged, by which any class of men are injured, will exert themselves for a reformation, and not give over the pursuit till it be accomplished. Edition: current; Page: [1331] As they are the guardians of the people, fidelity to their trust demands their attention. Laws should be founded upon the principles of reason and justice—should be few in number, perspicuous, and punctually executed. Those which have been made, and are now in force, ought they not to be made plain and intelligible? Might not perplexities, expences, and great injustice, be prevented, and society highly favoured? Explicit laws, binding mankind to the rules of justice, are an admirable security to all branches of society. Under them, contracts are valid, peaceable members of the community are protected in the enjoyment of their interests, the profligate restrained and punished, and in a sense the “wrath of man is made to praise God.”

A frequent revision of the laws and constitutions of a country, with such alterations as good policy may suggest, promotes that general utility which cements the various parts of society, and forms a complete harmonious whole.

Again—An important object in the minds of good rulers, is, the increase of useful knowledge.

A foundation placed in the minds of youth, is like “good seed sown in good ground,” in its proper season; and gives the fairest prospects of a happy increase to the well being of society. The principles of virtue and knowledge early implanted, naturally take root, and produce a luxuriant harvest. Those who are thus favoured, are “trained up in the way they should go,” the best prompter on life’s devious journey. Hence the propriety of having able instructors, whose morals and language are worthy of imitation: And hence the necessity of giving ample encouragement, in a business so important and laborious. Though honourable donations have been made for the promotion of literature, yet the fostering hand of our civil fathers may be required for bringing to maturity. May it not then be expected, that every aid and encouragement will be given to education? The views of such as are young, are hereby extended; they are raised above the grovelling vulgarisms too common to that age, which will have a happy influence upon society, in preparing the rising generation to fill with honour the most dignified stations, when they may be called to act upon the theatre of life.

Is there not a third and an important object in the mind of rulers, viz. the increase of virtue and religion?

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The ideas which have by some been adopted, that the civil authority should never interpose in matters of religion, are erroneous. It is granted by the most learned politicians, that the religious forms which have been established and supported, have had a powerful tendency to promote civility, to restrain vicious men, to protect the innocent, to countenance worthy pursuits, and to discountenance the immoralities which have contaminated mankind! Sentiments of this nature have flowed from knowledge and experience: And if they be well founded, is it not a truth, that establishments of this kind invite the attention of that civil policy which is the support of government? If, therefore, virtue and religion form the principal pillar which upholds the civil fabrick, it is evidently a duty for wise rulers to contribute something for its support. Upon this principle, many professed deists contribute with cheerfulness and liberality to public teachers of morality; they are patrons to the worship of God in gospel order: They have considered it as a measure wisely adapted to uphold government—and in this they deserve an encomium.

Such as fully believe the Christian religion, and receive the scriptures as the word of God, have additional motives for their utmost exertions that sobriety and goodness may be promoted. It is indisputable, that the more a society live in the practice of virtue, the greater prosperity they enjoy: The more they are under the influence of vicious principles, the more unhappiness they will experience. The sacred oracles give us the best directions: In them, no unreasonable restraints are imposed, no rational enjoyments are forbidden: Excess alone is transgression. So far as the scriptures are strictly regarded, so far every member of the community conducts with propriety: The various propensities and passions peculiar to human nature, are directed to right objects: And there, Christ, a most faithful and compassionate legislator, stands, giving law to his subjects. In those records, his character is exhibited, his maxims are registered, his example left for our imitation; and the whole perfectly reconcileable to virtue, religion, and the best policy: Thence may be extracted wisdom and instruction to guide us into the paths of rectitude; to save us from destructive courses of error and delusion: Here is a constitution worthy the particular notice of every man who holds an office in government; that under the influence of its rules, he may be instrumental in diffusing virtuous and benevolent principles: Directed by this, he Edition: current; Page: [1333] will give his public testimony in favour of those who are engaged professionally to prepare mankind for blessings in this life, and a glorious future reward.

One farther essential in good rulers, is, that they are themselves exemplary.

There can be no greater burlesque upon the character of rulers, than when, under binding obligations to God, and their constituents, they are making laws which they are the first in violating! But how agreeable are the prospects, when judicious laws are made, are esteemed sacred; and are punctually observed by the enactors! A sanction is hereby placed upon them, which impresses every mind. And societies having their eye upon their rulers, observing their consistency, are led to follow their example, which naturally tends to rectify the vices and to reform the manners of the community. When precept and example are harmonious in rulers, every observer is charmed with the character; when they are at variance, they cannot fail to produce contempt. Of great importance then it must appear, for those who are clothed with authority, to have the qualifications described in my text, to be themselves exemplary, and let their light shine before men, who, aiming at one great object, the best interest of the public, are filled with present animation; and their views, not confined to this life, are extended, and terminate in immortality.

The discourse shall be closed with an improvement—and with addresses suited to the present occasion.

The suggestions which have been given, exhibit the necessity of a government established upon the principles of reason, and guarded by the maxims of justice and virtue. The passions natural to men, indicate that we were formed for society—and they powerfully excite us to enter into social connections. From a state of natural equality, communities are formed. The infirmities of men require protection—their vices, restraints and punishment. A free government, therefore, under which the virtuous are encouraged, and the vicious punished, is the palladium of the rational mind. How important, then, that it should be supported; that every aid should be given to those who are entrusted with authority, so long as they perform their duty. Vigilance respecting rulers, a check to prevent an undue exercise of power, are requisite, to preserve inviolate the liberties and privileges of a people. An unrestrained authority is dangerous; witness Hazael, Edition: current; Page: [1334] Haman, and the unfortunate Charles. Extremes are always attended with consequences most unfavourable: Tyranny and anarchy, equally pernicious! An opposition to good government is inexcusable, as it “resists an ordinance of God.” A tame submission to an unjust authority, discovers a pusillanimity derogatory to the human mind. Wherever a just government is wanting, as an “hidden treasure” it should be sought and established: Where it hath been enjoyed, and is become deficient, it should be carefully amended, as was before hinted. Too great efforts cannot be made to uphold and perpetuate a well-founded government—and continued exertions will facilitate its rising in respectability.

From the ideas which have been brought into view, may not the people of America felicitate themselves under our present forms of government, and in the general characters of our rulers, especially those in exalted stations? Though we may not be favoured with supreme magistrates who have an immediate intercourse with heaven, as had Moses the law-giver of Israel; yet we may presume that they have been, and are, favoured with the approving presence of God.

Our constitutions of government, though they may be imperfect, stand high in the estimation of the enlightened and impartial among the nations of the earth: And under them, we have reason to rejoice in a general prosperity. If virtue and attention are not with us dormant, little can be wanting to complete the system.

When we take a retrospect of the scenes through which we have passed, since the commencement of our late contest, our minds upon the recollection are impressed with a trembling, grateful pleasure. In consequence of injuries and insults, with but little more than a sling and stone we encountered the giant, and foiled Britain!

A propitious Providence, like the “pillar of a cloud and of fire to Israel,” led the American armies. And not less apparent hath been the hand of God, in our civil operations. The organization of our governments, hath been attended with salutary effects in the increase of property and respectability. After our thankful acknowledgments to God, the great Superintendent, we should not neglect to express gratitude to a Washington, a Franklin, an Adams, a Jay, and to other heroes who have been instrumental in accomplishing those great purposes, so much for the honour and interest of the American states, and for the happiness of future generations.

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Shall we not spend a moment in contrasting our present circumstances in a state of peace, with what we experienced when involved in the horrors of war? in contrasting our situation, with many of the European nations whose garments are now stained with human blood? Let us read the history of the French revolution, and we shall have additional reason to rejoice in God for his favours, and in the language of inspiration must say, “hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”

Again—from the reflections we have been making, we learn the advantages of a virtuous government. If we look into the sacred history, we find the prosperity of Israel ebbing and flowing with the morality of their sovereigns. When they had good kings, heavy judgments were averted; but when their rulers were vicious, they forsook the Lord, ran into idolatry, exposed themselves, and judgments came upon them like a flood! They became so abandoned, that God said of them by his prophet, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, my heart could not be towards this people; cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.”

And hath it not been generally true, that ignorance, a neglect of God and his worship, idleness, luxury, dissolute manners, and factions, have been certain preludes to the destruction of states and empires? Is not this abundantly proved by the histories of ancient times? Was not this verified in the destruction of Sparta, Athens, Rome? And if we may reason from past events, we may safely presume, that like causes will produce similar effects, however we may be involved in the issue.

Though it pleases God not to reward or punish individuals in this life, according to their merit or demerit, as appears by the histories of the prophets and apostles, by the parable of Dives and Lazarus, by the prosperity of Nero, and the misfortunes of Louis; yet heaven hath balanced national virtue by affluence, and vice by a counterpoise of adversity. Nothing, then, can be a greater stimulus to a virtuous government, to adopt the most energetic measures, that religion and every species of virtue may be encouraged: On the other hand, that vice, with its baneful retinue, and whatever may be derogatory to the citizen, the statesman, or the christian, may be discountenanced, and meet with an exemplary punishment! The officers of government have a price put into their hands, to promote the interest of their brethren, and the common cause of virtue. And when they are repeatedly, Edition: current; Page: [1336] by the suffrages of their country, called into office, it is an evidence in their favour, and a public declaration, that their past conduct hath been approved.

Many of our civil fathers, upon the present anniversary, have frequently been selected to act as guardians to the people of this state. Their past fidelity hath been a sufficient recommendation to their present promotion; and we trust, the transactions of the ensuing year will, with resplendency, evidence the wisdom and judgment of the people in their choice.

His excellency the governor, the honourable council, senate and house of representatives, will please to accept my cordial congratulations upon the present joyful occasion. Regularly introduced into your several offices, clothed with authority, we cheerfully anticipate the salutary effects of your deliberations, in the advancement of the general prosperity, the safety and interest of every class of citizens. May wisdom, integrity, and unanimity, attend your councils, and concentre in all your decisions. May that spirit which directed Moses in the government of Israel, preside in all your pursuits; that under your administration, order and regularity may be conspicuous, knowledge and undissembled religion may spread their benign influences, illuminating every part of the system.

The present anniversary, which has collected the guardians of our civil rights from the several parts of the state, has brought together numbers in the ecclesiastical department, who wish to be considered as fellow-helpers in the cause of our country. May I be permitted to address my brethren, upon this auspicious day, and rejoice with them under a government, where harmony pervades the various departments, and so happily unites, in one common centre, the civil and ecclesiastical influence?

My brethren and friends,

Every effort of ours, to promote virtue, and to oppose the prevalence of vice, contributes something to strengthen the hands of our civil rulers: Their exertions for the accomplishment of the same purposes, encourage our hearts. With satisfaction we attend upon our annual convention, to unite our best endeavours that religion may be promoted at the season and place of our public elections: And our pleasure is heightened by that generous friendship which has ever Edition: current; Page: [1337] appeared in the guardians of the state, to our order, and by that reciprocity of affection which has glowed in every countenance. Ardently wishing the present harmony may be perpetuated, and to unite our efforts in aiding the civil magistrate, we have great confidence in having that assistance and support from the same government, which may terminate in a general increase of mutual happiness.

Something by way of address to this respectable audience, shall finish the present discourse.

My friends and fellow citizens,

After a series of signal interpositions, the inhabitants of this land are placed upon the shores of freedom, with the olive branch flourishing in their hands. Heroes in the field, wise men at the head of the civil polity, with a prevailing intercourse with heaven, have brought on the present æra. For years past, no nation ever experienced greater prosperity. “The voice of joy and health have been heard in our habitations”; the earth hath teemed with a profusion of rich treasures; “the little hills have rejoiced on every side.”

Arts and sciences have flourished; and a spirit of enterprize, before unknown in the annals of our country, hath been displayed, not in opening deep waters, that travellers may go through dry shod, but in providing safe passages over them; and also to divert the watery element into different channels, to facilitate the labours of men. Perhaps no period was ever so favourable for the general increase of property, as what we are now experiencing.

This life is a changing scene. Prosperity and adversity await mankind, under the superintendency of unerring wisdom. Though we have been a highly privileged people, this may not continue. Prosperity too often produces luxury, which leads to a decay of virtue, to irreligion, and ruin. May heaven divert our feet from paths so dangerous, and lead us on in the way of truth and safety. This is the course to preferments—it is the high way to honour and happiness, and a prologue to immortal joys.

Let us then cultivate virtue in ourselves—carefully avoid shading the light of reason, counteracting remonstrances of conscience, and what is recorded in God’s word. In the steady practice of every duty to God, to society, and ourselves—under the influence of caution, candour, and generosity—we may expect the divine approbation.

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When we act as electors, our eyes should ever be upon the “faithful of the land.” We shall, no doubt, have frequent calls for elections to the most important offices. This is verified by late experience—by the retirement of our worthy chief magistrate, at a critical period; and the choice of a successor, whose past eminent services have given him the best title to public confidence. Calls of this nature should be improved to awaken our vigilance, that we may obtain a true knowledge of the most deserving, and of those of a contrary description; that our future proceedings may be consonant to the principles of reason and sound policy.

May the great Superintendent give wisdom to our supreme government at their present session, in transactions of the highest moment to the states of America—that prudence, fortitude, and unanimity, may mark every movement, and instamp a dignity upon our national character. With a rational confidence in that authority, under God, we rest our political safety: We rely upon their wisdom and integrity.

Presuming that we shall not be deceived, we shall ever be ready to support government, to reward all who are faithfully discharging the duties of their stations, from those who are rulers of thousands, to such as are only rulers of tens.

Upon a reflection, that we have all a part to act in the drama of life, our minds cannot but be impressed, that our several stations require various exercises! “That though on earth the powers that be are ordained of God,” and cannot be disregarded but by incurring the divine displeasure; yet we are accountable to higher powers, and ere long must assemble at the bar of the great Judge of the earth!

Keeping that solemn period ever in view, let us perform our parts in life with a cheerful seriousness, as in the presence of an omniscient God. With lives regulated by the maxims of truth, by the illuminations of the divine spirit, let us “run the ways of God’s commandments,” disseminating light and knowledge, till we are prepared to enter into a world of glory, where virtue alone will dignify and exalt every immortal spirit, in the immediate presence of God, of the Redeemer, in the society of angelic hosts and innumerable glorified saints—where one chorus of praise shall commence, progress in ceaseless ages, and subordinate power be absorbed in heaven’s Sovereign.

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john thayer a discourse, delivered at the roman catholic church in boston fpage="1339" lpage="1362"


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John Thayer (1758–1815). Born in Boston and graduated from Yale, Thayer became a Congregational minister and served in the Revolution under John Hancock at Castle William (1780–81). He was the first American divine to convert to Roman Catholicism; while studying in Europe he was ordained a priest by the archbishop of Paris (1787). He returned to America intent upon converting the Puritans to Catholicism and spent the period from 1790 to 1803 in missionary endeavors in New England, Virginia, and on the frontier in Kentucky. He was derided by the American ecclesiastics as “John Turncoat.” While the public responded to him well, the usually tolerant Ezra Stiles harshly commented: “Commenced his life in impudence, ingratitude, lying & hypocrisy, irregularly took up preaching among Congregationalists, went to France & Italy, became a proselyte to the Romish church, & is returned to convert America to that [church] . . . of haughty insolence & insidious talents” (Literary Digest of Ezra Stiles, 3:416). An estimated 600 Catholics lived in New England by 1785, most of them “improper Bostonians” originally from Ireland (the first Catholic church in New England was founded in Boston in 1788).

Stiles’s remarks notwithstanding, Thayer proved an effective missionary while in America, and he continued that work in his retirement in Limerick, Ireland, beginning in 1803. He conceived a plan to organize a convent in Boston, but finding little cooperation and no volunteers, he proceeded to train his own postulants. These became the nucleus of the famous Ursuline Convent in Charlestown (Boston), established in 1819 after Thayer’s death. The convent was burned down by a nativist mob in 1834.

This powerful sermon, one of Thayer’s finest, was preached in the Boston Catholic Church on May 9, 1798, designated by President John Adams as a day of humiliation and prayer. This observance was proclaimed amidst the furor in the country over the humiliating rebuff of American emissaries in Paris, Elbridge Gerry, John Marshall, and Charles C. Pinckney, by the French Republic, now under radical government by the Directory—the famous “X, Y, Z Affair.” Thayer’s tenor and his recitation of French atrocities during the Terror is indicative of the climate of opinion. Washington had been recalled as nominal commander-in-chief of the American army, which was being mobilized by Alexander Hamilton at President Adams’s direction. Edition: current; Page: [1341] Edition: current; Page: [1342] The fitting out of the navy was accelerated, naval war ensued, and the possibility of full-scale warfare against France loomed. So divided was the country, and so strong was the fear of Jacobin influence, that Washington himself insisted that Republicans be excluded from the army as potentially disloyal. The enactment of the repressive Alien and Sedition Acts, whereby political opposition became a crime, occurred during June and July; it was thus within weeks of Thayer’s sermon on May 9, and provides an index of the feverish temper of the times.

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Pray without ceasing—give thanks.

I Thessalonians, v. 17, 18.

In the words just read, the inspired apostle inculcates on us the two important duties of prayer and thanksgiving, which the President of the United States invites us all to perform on this day. We have need to pray for the pardon of our sins, as a nation, and as individuals, and to humble ourselves profoundly before God on account of them; and we have need to pray for the continuation of the mercies, both spiritual and temporal, which we have hitherto enjoyed. To the proclamation of our Supreme Magistrate, our Right Rev. Bishop has been pleased to add his strong recommendation, in which, in addition to the objects of humiliation and prayer common to all our fellow-citizens, he urges us to beseech the Lord to put a stop to the dreadful persecution which is now ravaging his own church, and to comfort and strengthen its visible head. But, though the duty of humiliation and prayer be incumbent on us at all times, and more specifically at the present, still, seeing the astonishing change that has lately taken place in the public mind, I consider the duty of thanksgiving as yet more pressing—I shall, therefore, at this time, mention to you some of the motives which should excite us all to gratitude and thanksgiving to the great bestower of all good; and, as I proceed, I shall, from time to time, make such reflections as are proper to incline our hearts to prayer and humiliation.

During the whole course of my ministry among you, my brethren, I have never before entered into any details concerning political affairs; nor should I do it now, were it not to teach you to appreciate duly the government under which you live, and to point out your duties towards it.

1. The first blessing which demands our cordial thanks to God is, that we live under the freest and most easy government in the world. The constitution of the United States unites a proper degree of energy with all the liberty which any reasonable person can desire. It is well-balanced, our executive, legislative and judicial authorities being independent of, and mutually checked by, each other. They all emanate from the people at large; who have always the power to put an Edition: current; Page: [1344] end to any real abuses which may take place, by displacing their present representatives and appointing others that have their confidence—and as long as the great body of the people do not see the necessity of a change of men and measures, we may rest assured, that the abuses, however they may be magnified by party-scribblers and declaimers, are not of a very alarming nature. Under such a government as this, every insurrection against the constituted authorities, or opposition to them, is a revolt of a part against the general will, by which those authorities exist, and is highly criminal. Praised be God, that this happy constitution, under which persons of all denominations enjoy entire security for their lives, property, and liberty, whether spiritual or political, is still unimpaired and in full operation; and that all the attempts to overturn, or to weaken it, by concentrating all its powers in the single house of representatives, have only served to throw light upon its principles, and to give it additional strength.

2. Another cause of thanksgiving to God is, that the administration of this most excellent constitution, ever since its first establishment, has been committed to men eminent for their wisdom, firmness, and patriotic services. I need only mention a Washington, that guardian genius, that saviour of his country, that ornament of the human race, to excite in all your hearts the warmest feelings of esteem, gratitude and love. Long may he enjoy the charms of that retirement in which he has chosen to spend the evening of his life: may the blessings of this country and of the universe be yet many years his reward; and at length, enriched with every christian as well as moral virtue, may he enter the realms of everlasting felicity.

We have great reason to be thankful, that, when that approved warrior and admired statesman resigned the helm of state, and sought the repose which his age and health required, God did not permit the intrigues of a foreign, insidious nation to succeed in raising the man of their choice to the presidential chair; but inspired us with sufficient courage to place at our head a statesman and patriot, whose ability and integrity, proved in the most trying times, eminently entitle him to our confidence and affection. Such is the illustrious John Adams, the present president of these states. This great man can have nothing in view but the happiness and prosperity of his fellow-citizens, with Edition: current; Page: [1345] whose fortunes his own, and those of his family, are evidently and inseparably connected.

He wishes for no power unwarranted by the constitution, and for no support incompatible with the generous spirit of freedom. Since the publication of his instructions to our messengers of peace, we have learned, better than ever, to appreciate his worth. We are now assured of his moderate and conciliatory temper, as well as of his decisive firmness. Under such a leader we have nothing to fear: never will he sacrifice the honor of his country; never will he relinquish any part of that independence which has long been the object of all his toils and labors, and for the obtaining of which so many of our brave countrymen have spilt their blood and lost their lives. Let us offer up our fervent prayers to heaven, on this day, that his invaluable life may be preserved, and his health continued; that God would give him wisdom to discern what are the best measures to be adopted for the good of his country, and the fortitude to put them into execution, in spite of every obstacle and opposition; and that all those who assist him in council may be men of ability and integrity, so that the public may receive no detriment from incapacity or dishonesty. Let us all resolve to give him a generous and cordial support, and openly avow this resolution by setting our names to the manly and spirited addresses which are now proposed for the signature of all citizens. Let us tell him, that we feel, as we ought, the value of that liberty which we enjoy, and that we pledge our fortunes and sacred honour to defend it with loyalty and fidelity, under the banners of the government which we have chosen. Let us express our indignation at the repeated insults offered to this government, which has sought peace by every possible mean compatible with the dignity and honour of an independent nation. Let us declare, with the firmness and self-respect of freemen, our readiness to unite in every effort, which shall be made, to prevent our being subjected to the degrading conditions which a foreign nation seeks to impose upon us, as preliminary to all negociation for peace, and that we consider war, with all its attendant calamities, as by far the least of the two evils. Let us show, that we love the government which protects us, and that we are not divided from it, either in interest or affection. In fine, let us express our warm and unequivocal approbation of the wise and temperate system which has Edition: current; Page: [1346] hitherto been pursued with regard to foreign nations, and our increasing confidence in him who presides over us with so much wisdom and prudence.

3. A third motive, which we have, of the sincerest thanks to heaven is, that, while a spirit of disorganization and disorder has produced such baleful effects in other countries, America, in spite of the effervescence produced among us by the extraordinary exertions of foreign and domestic intriguers, yet remains in a happy state of tranquillity. France appears to have been raised up by God for the chastisement of an impious world. I speak not of France governed by the descendants of St. Louis; it was then the guardian of religion and good morals, and the asylum of the unfortunate. Happy land! where I received the most valuable part of my education, and where I passed my happiest years among esteemed friends and beloved associates! Alas! to me no more! They are all either cruelly butchered, banished, or reduced to wretchedness at home. If I forget thee, O dear, charming abode, may my right hand forget her cunning; may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. But now; how changed! My heart sinks within me, my spirits die away, when I recal the fate of some of my dearest inmates. But soon the painful recollection is swallowed up in the consideration of the complicated distresses of that once highly favoured empire.

France revolutionized is more truly the scourge of God, than was ever Attila, or any other barbarous conqueror recorded in history. Its tyrants, like Satan, their father, may be literally said to go about, seeking whom they may devour. If we cast an eye over the map of the world, we shall find, in almost every part, most dreadful traces of their destructive plans. The miseries which they have spread throughout the globe are beyond all the powers of calculation; miseries so universal as to have excited the horror of all who have the feelings, or merit the name, of human beings—miseries which will never be effaced from the memory of mankind, and which entire ages of peace and tranquillity will be scarcely able to repair. What unparalleled calamities have they not inflicted on their own wretched country! what wanton cruelties and atrocities have they not committed there! Their own writers confess, that, by the different modes of destruction, the guillotine, shooting, drowning, and the like, upwards of 30,000 persons were killed at Lyons, and that that once magnificent Edition: current; Page: [1347] city was in great part levelled to the ground, that, at Nantz, according to the lowest estimate, 27,000 (some say, 40,000) were murdered, chiefly by drowning,* so that the water of the Loire, on which it stands, became putrid, and was forbidden to be drunk, that at Paris, 150,000, and in la Vendee 300,000 were destroyed. They own themselves, that, since the beginning of their execrable revolution, two millions of their nation have been sacrificed, of which 250,000 were women, and 30,000 children: and in this immense carnage are not included the soldiers who have perished in camp and fallen in battle, nor the unborn infants who were destroyed together with their mothers. Look into that country, and examine its present state. Though, by plunder, forced loans, contributions, and other iniquitous means, its lordly rulers have made a very great part of the riches of Europe to concentre there; still, by their narrow policy, by the ruin of all manufactures, commerce, and every other regular source of wealth and revenue, and by the entire subversion of all public confidence, they have reduced the wretched inhabitants to a state little short of actual beggary and starvation. No slavery can be equal to their’s: their condition is the most degraded that can be conceived. Every thing they possess, and even their very persons, are in a constant state of requisition; that is, they must be given up at the call of their rapacious masters, under pain of death, if they refuse. No man there dares write, print, speak, or even indicate, by the smallest sign, any disapprobation of whatever measures may chance to be dictated by the faction actually in power. Every press is seized that sends forth the least word in opposition to the mandates of the haughty directors, and the editors are put to death, imprisoned or banished. The people have no stable, fixed laws, by which to regulate their conduct: one edict is scarcely rendered public before it is annulled by another directly contrary; so that what is considered as lawful, and even patriotic, to-day, may to-morrow be accounted a crime worthy of death and confiscation.

Under these accumulated calamities, the wretched slaves might find their yoke less galling, their burdens less insupportable, if they could enjoy, as it were by stealth, the consolations of religion, for Edition: current; Page: [1348] which they hunger and thirst. But no; their tyrants have nearly dried up this source of comfort. And here, my friends, what horrid scenes present themselves to our recollection! Many years before the revolution burst forth, the self-styled philosophers, a tribe composed of deists, atheists and materialists, had, by their secret clubs, by impious and obscene publications, and by various other means, suggested by the infernal spirit, attempted, and in part succeeded, to corrupt the different classes of society in France. But never could their system of impiety take effect upon the great mass of the citizens, who found, and ever will find, their happiness in the belief of religion. They had long plotted the utter extirpation of all religion, but, in the first place, of that which, by its greater extension and superior attachment to order and good government, stood more immediately in the way of their nefarious projects: this religion was the Roman Catholic: its overthrow was, therefore, resolved on; and the moment they had trampled down the ancient authorities of the kingdom, they employed every artifice, and made every effort, to effect their purpose. They began their impious attack on the church, by degrading her ministers in the eyes of the populace, by stripping them of those distinctive garments of their order, which, for ages, had rendered them respectable to the faithful. They then deprived them of their livings and other possessions, and represented them as inimical to the true interests of the country, because they would not take oaths which tended to nothing less, than the renunciation of the authority of the sovereign pontiff and of the bishops; in a word, of the catholic religion, which had been transmitted to them through several succeeding centuries. Upon their noble and almost unanimous refusal to apostatize from their faith, one of the most horrible persecutions (and perhaps the most so), that was ever levelled against the ministers of the altar, commenced, and has continued, with almost unabating fury, until the present moment: according to the very last authentic accounts, the priests are still hunted down, and very great rewards are offered for delivering them up. Thousands of these holy men, of these generous confessors of Jesus Christ, have been put to death, by drowning, shooting, and guillotining, or have perished through want and ill treatment. Thousands and tens of thousands of them have been banished from their homes, destitute of all means of subsistence, by the bloody edicts of the monsters of France; or have gone into Edition: current; Page: [1349] voluntary exile, and are now wandering in foreign climes, where they either suffer all the horrors of indigence, or prolong their existence by the precarious charities of strangers. I need not inform you, my brethren, that the two excellent priests, who govern this flock with so much profit, and who are so deservedly dear* to you all, are here only in consequence of the terrible vexations in their own country.

But the cruelty of the persecutors was not confined to the different orders of the clergy; it extended even to the poor, innocent, defenceless nuns, who, by almost entire exclusion from exterior conversation, and a consecration to the tranquil exercises of devotion, were become far more timid than the weakest of their sex who live in the world. Bands of armed ruffians were sent into their sacred asylums, who used every species of violence to force them to take the sacrilegious oath to give up their religion. Many of those unoffending virgins expired under the murderous lash, to preserve inviolate fidelity to their vows. Very few of them indeed were terrified, or even seduced, into a compliance with the orders of their tyrants. At length, when all means of perversion had been essayed in vain, a barbarous edict strips them of all their property at one stroke; their convents are declared to belong to the nation; and, in one day, all those helpless victims, to the number of 30,000, are turned out by force to all the miseries attendant on a state of poverty and want. Many of them had grown old in the cloister; many of them were sick and infirm; all of them had given up, under the sanction of former laws, whatever they possessed in the world, and of course found themselves in the utmost distress. No consideration of this kind was capable of touching the more than adamantine hearts of their enemies, who, to aggravate their wretched and forlorn situation, forbad all persons, under the severest penalties, to harbour more than two of them together. All the eloquence that ever fell to the lot of a mortal would be totally inadequate to point out, in their real turpitude, only a small part of those deeds of horror which have taken place in France within these Edition: current; Page: [1350] few years past. The many traits of savage barbarity related in the history of the world, all collected and united together, appear tender mercies, when compared with the refined cruelties of the sanguinary factions of that country; cruelties not committed by a few unlicensed individuals, amid the disorders of a revolution, but by commission from the men in power, and under their immediate eye. Were I to enter into a few details, such as are given by the writers of their own party, the hairs of your heads would stand erect; an involuntary tremor would seize every joint and limb of your bodies; loving husbands and wives, you could not resist the shock; tender mothers, you would faint at the recital; and your modesty, my virgin hearers, would be indeed most sensibly wounded. I, therefore, turn from these abominable scenes.

To all their inhuman deeds, they have added the most horrid impieties and profanations. They have stripped the churches of the holy vessels, vestments and other things consecrated to the worship of God, and have converted them all to common uses. Some of these venerable temples they have turned into play-houses, stores, rope-walks, stables, and the like; and others they have devoted to the worship of impious men and prostituted women, to whom they have paid the most extravagant honours. They have respected nothing that has the least relation to religion. They have commanded all bibles, prayer-books, sacred images, &c. to be brought forth, and have consumed them in one common mass. Nor, in this respect, has one religious profession been more favoured than another; for the dissenting meeting-houses, and even the Jewish synagogues, were emptied also, and their contents committed to the flames. They have spared no one of the sacred institutions of Christianity; and, in order to obliterate it entirely from the memory of mankind, they have made it a crime to pass the first day of the week in exercises of religious worship (a practice co-eval with the existence of the Christian religion), and have introduced, in its stead, the decade, a day wholly devoted to profane amusements.

But the funest effects of the revolution in France have not been limited to that country—it has also proved a sweeping deluge to their West-India colonies: it has carried devastation and ruin into those once flourishing islands, under the pretext of spreading among them the blessings of freedom: the slaves have been let loose upon the Edition: current; Page: [1351] whites; the richest towns have been given up to plunder, and burnt; and a war of extermination has been declared, and still furiously rages.

If we look into the European world, and consider the countries which the French have either conquered, or seduced to fraternize with them (as they term it), we shall see every where, that, notwithstanding their most solemn promises of liberty of conscience, of security of life and property, they have uniformly robbed the churches, taken away the lives and estates of those who would not join in all their atrocities, deprived the people of the freedom of religion, plundered them by their armies, levied upon them the most grievous contributions, forced them to give up their strong-holds, and to maintain their conquerors among them for the purpose of keeping themselves in subjection. Holland* was an hive of bees; her sons flew on the wings of the wind to every corner of the globe; and returned laden with the sweets of every climate. Belgium was a garden of herbs, the oxen were strong to labour, the fields were thickly covered with the abundance of the harvest. Unhappy Dutchmen! they still toil, but not for their own comfort; they still collect honey, but not for themselves! France seizes the hive as often as their industry has filled it. Ill-judging Belgians! they no longer eat in security the fruits of their own grounds; France, all-grasping France (whose never-ceasing cry is, “give, give”), finds occasion, or makes occasion, to participate largely in their riches; it is more truly said of themselves than of their oxen, they plough the fields, but not for their own profit.

It would take up far more time than could be possibly given to one discourse, to follow their murdering bands to all the places through which, like destroying angels, they have spread terror and desolation. Wherever they have met with the least resistance, especially if an individual Frenchman was killed in the conflict, whole bodies of respectable magistrates have been made to expiate, with their lives, the pretended rebellion; entire cities have been threatned with extermination for the same offence, and nothing but enormous sums of money have been able to save them from the impending ruin. Like impetuous torrents, in the rapidity of their course, they have borne down every thing before them; and, without distinction of friends and enemies, Edition: current; Page: [1352] they have effaced, from the list of independent nations, Geneva, Genoa, Venice, and the papal territory.

The pope had been for ages, by the liberality of Christian princes, a very considerable temporal sovereign. His dominions had been secured to him by the same solemn treaties, which had hitherto bound kingdoms and states to each other. Yet, in spite of those treaties, no sooner was the National Assembly formed, than it forcibly wrested from him a valuable part* of his possessions, under a pretext, which would sanction every robbery, viz. that it would be a very convenient addition to the French empire. From that first aggression they have never desisted, one moment, from their project of destroying the temporal sovereignty of the Roman pontiff, and, if possible, of putting an end to his spiritual supremacy in the church. And, though our Holy Father has constantly shown himself the most pacific of men, a true disciple of the meek and humble Jesus; though this his disposition has been evident before the eyes of all Europe, as Buonaparte is obliged to acknowledge; though his unfeigned piety, his firmness and moderation amidst the greatest difficulties, his spirit of sacrifice and concession wherever his conscience and duty were not implicated, have drawn on him the veneration and love of all good men, the admiration and esteem of his enemies, and have created a lively solicitude, among the most judicious dissenters from our faith, for the preservation of his person and temporalities; notwithstanding all this, the terrible and all-devouring republic has, at length, made an occasion to rob him of all his states; and, in order to secure the co-operation of his own subjects, in the iniquitous work, she has flattered their ears with the syren sound of freedom, which will very soon terminate in the most wretched slavery.

Let me here fix your attention, for a few moments, on the common father of all the faithful. Perhaps, while I am now speaking, he is exposed to the most ignominious treatment, is insulted and reviled, as was the Redeemer of the world, whom he represents on earth; perhaps he is now confined to a horrid dungeon, loaded with chains, as was St. Peter, to whom he is a most worthy successor; or, perhaps, he has fallen a victim to the fury of the enemies of God and man, and Edition: current; Page: [1353] has thus become a glorious martyr for the holy catholic faith. Children are obliged to pray for their parents; the church is bound to pray for her head: thus did the primitive Christians for St. Peter, who, on account of their prayers, was delivered from prison by the miraculous interposition of an angel. Our reverend bishop has ordered every priest to pray for the sovereign pontiff, in an especial manner, during six successive months. It is a duty which we most cheerfully undertake. We hope, that each one of you, who has the smallest love for his religion, will unite his prayers to those which are ascending, from every part of the catholic church, for the same important object. But, while we urge you earnestly to pray, we, at the same time, exhort you not to be discouraged at the present gloomy aspect of affairs in the church. Though some fanatics, in the jacobinic vehicles of slander and abuse, have lately very much exulted over the misfortunes of the pope, as if the fall of anti-christ* were near at hand; we catholics despise such ranting stuff, knowing, as we do, with the certitude of divine faith, that all their silly forebodings will prove vain; and that the church will stand and triumph, in spite of earth and hell combined against her. God has declared, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her; and his word will be fulfilled. She has past through far more grievous trials: all the powers of the world were leagued against her from her very infancy; and for three hundred years together the greatest part of her chief pastors spilt their blood in her defence. Her past preservation is a pledge of future protection. All her sufferings were foretold by her Divine Founder, who took care to build her upon so solid a rock, that she will ever stand immoveable amidst all the floods and storms of persecution and impiety which may beat against her. Pope Pius the VIth is the successor of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles; he is the vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and the visible head of his church; and, therefore, whatever may be his fate, yet, as sure as God is true, so sure he will have a Edition: current; Page: [1354] successor, even until the end of ages. Mighty revolutions shall take place throughout the globe: kingdoms shall be changed into republics, and republics into kingdoms: civilization shall succeed to barbarism, and barbarism to civilization: Amid all these vicissitudes, still the bark of St. Peter, with his successors at the helm, shall sail triumphantly down the stream of time; and never will the pilot appear more venerable, than when he guides the vessel amidst the howling tempest and raging billows. We ought, indeed, to be deeply humbled, that iniquity is permitted to go to such lengths against God’s holy church; we ought, each one, to consider our sins as, in part, the causes of this terrible calamity; we ought, therefore, to resolve on a reformation of life, especially at this time, when the charity of very many catholics is become cold, when the enemies of the church are her own favoured children, whom she has brought up with the tenderest care and affection, and fed with the word of God and the sacraments. But, I repeat it; we must not be dismayed, as if all were lost. God’s promise will have its full and perfect effect: he is still the strong and Almighty Lord: his arm is not shortened; he will yet protect his church, which he has purchased with his own precious blood: her enemies will all be defeated and confounded; and she, like gold tried in the fire, will be purified from all her dross* in the crucible of tribulation, and will shine more bright and glorious than ever. Let these reflections be your consolation.

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All the miseries which the French have occasioned, and are now occasioning, are but the beginnings of what they meditate. Their object now clearly appears to be universal domination; and, without a miraculous interference of divine providence, we have much reason to fear that they will obtain it, at least on the continent of Europe. Spain, Portugal and Switzerland seem just ready to fall within the fraternal embrace of those ministers of divine vengeance. What will be the fate of England, against which their hatred and malice appear principally levelled, or, rather, for whose immense riches they have the most voracious desire, a period, not far distant, must disclose. In the mean time, we ought to wish ardently and pray fervently for the preservation of that magnanimous kingdom, the only remaining bulwark, in Europe, against the inroads of barbarism.

Let us now consider what has been the baseness and injustice of that great nation (as they insultingly call themselves), towards America. At a very early period of their revolution we acknowledged their existence as a republic, and formally received their ambassador; for which act we hazarded the displeasure of the principal powers of Europe then leagued against them, and war with the most formidable Edition: current; Page: [1356] of them all. We sent them our bread when their ports were blockaded, and they were in a starving condition. We even went so far as to pay into their hands, and long before it became due, the debt which we had contracted with their good king, whom they had most inhumanly murdered. Our merchants were seduced to carry them the rich produce of our soil; and, to the eternal infamy of that swindling republic, they yet remain entirely unpaid, or else have been obliged to receive depreciated paper. Our vessels have been embargoed in their ports, to the very great damage of their owners; our merchants have been plundered, for years together, to the amount of millions; the stipulations of our solemn treaty with them have been continually violated; and all this injurious treatment was given us under the frivolous pretext of imperious necessity; the sense of which phrase is more intelligibly expressed in the high-wayman’s words; your purse or your life. The despots of France have continually interfered in the concerns of our government, from which they have endeavoured, by their spies, their bribes, and their nefarious and artful intrigues, to divide the body of the people. They have treated our chief magistrates with the utmost indignity and contempt: they have persuaded the people to despise and vilify their rulers, to controul the authorities constituted by themselves to act in their behalf, and to establish a system of disorganization and a wild, unprincipled, democracy, in place of our present rational liberty, which is supported by law and order. All these aggravated wrongs, all this accumulation of unmerited injury and abuse, we have forborne to resent, still hoping for redress from that generosity and justice which are innate in the human heart. We have used every mean of conciliation compatible with the dignity and honour of an independent, sovereign, people. Our government first sent over to them a gentleman of the highest respectability, with full powers to adjust all existing differences; but he was spurned from their presence, and treated with the most marked contempt. But, duly appreciating the great blessing of peace, our president still persisted in his conciliatory conduct; and, to the gentleman, whom they had already refused, he joined two others of our most distinguished citizens, fondly flattering himself, that this mark of condescension and deference would produce its proper effect. But no sooner do they arrive, than they are treated with the most sovereign indignity. Still they wait with patience: they supplicate: they suffer every degradation Edition: current; Page: [1357] to effect a reconciliation,* or even an interview, with the insolent usurpers of despotic power. And what is the answer which their agents return to all these humiliations? It is this, my friends:

You must first put into our hands thirty-three millions of dollars, as a free gift and as a loan; that is, more silver than can be carried in a hundred waggons, each loaded with a ton weight: and all this enormous sum only to be admitted into our sublime presence, in order to be told, whether, and on what terms, we will make peace with you; for which peace, if we condescend to make it, you must give us as many millions of dollars as we shall be graciously pleased to demand; and our demand shall not be regulated by the justice of your claims which we acknowledge and laugh at, but by our power to exact and by your ability to pay—and if you refuse these conditions; if you do not give us, as long as you have any thing to give; we will ravage your coasts; we will treat you as we have treated Holland, Geneva, Genoa, and the other republics; nay, we will destroy you as a nation, and parcel you out to whomsoever we please, as we have done with the most ancient republic in the world, Venice, which we had but just before declared free and independent.

Such is the substance of the answer given to our envoys by the haughty sultans of France—and is there a single freeman in America, whether a native or a foreigner, whose blood does not boil within him at the bare mention of so much insolence, and who does not reply to it, in the language of our envoys; we will make one manly struggle before we comply?

Though many may have been misled, in time past, from want of proper information, and from an opinion that France was fighting in the cause of liberty, no one now, since their iniquitous and oppressive conduct towards this country has come to light, unless he be a hired villain, or naturally delight in confusion, bloodshed and rapine, can find the least apology for them. The charm of the word liberty, with which they have so long fascinated the ignorant and unwary, is now dissolved. Honest men can now openly and freely express their sentiments, without any dread of that impudent, hectoring faction, which has so long terrified peaceable people into silence, and, in some measure, over-awed our government.

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From a review of what has been said, we see great cause of humiliation, before God, for the extreme depravity of the human heart. In the conduct of the usurpers and people of France, we discover what men are capable of, when they renounce their God and religion, and give themselves up to their passions. We should also be humbled, in the divine presence, on considering, that we are, at least, the partial causes of the awful judgments which are abroad in the world: nor must we flatter ourselves with being less guilty than others, because we are less severely chastised. Our situation hitherto has been truly enviable. While we bewail the crimes by which we have merited God’s anger, and deprecate his wrath, we ought to give him unfeigned thanks for all our blessings. While a notable part of the civilized, christian, world has, for several successive years, heard nothing but the din of arms and the confusion of war; we have enjoyed the happy effects of tranquillity and peace. While Jacobinism, by which I mean the principles of anarchy, disorganization, plunder and murder, has spread its baleful influence throughout the fairest portions of the universe, it has evidently made but small progress in America, notwithstanding the unwearied efforts which have been made for its propagation. That this is the case, is now very visible from the unanimous determination, which has burst forth, from one end of the Union to the other, to support our happy government, and to sacrifice every thing rather than to submit to national degradation: an unanimity, in my view, far greater than that which prevailed during our revolutionary war. In that war, many of our most respectable and virtuous citizens were on the side of Great-Britain from real motives of loyalty and of conscience; but no American can plead loyalty, religion, conscience, or any other honourable motive, for dissenting, from the body of his countrymen, in the noble stand they are now making against the most unjust, imperious, insulting and impious nation that inhabits the globe. None but the basest and most treasonable of motives can influence such a wretch. I hope, my brethren, there is not an individual among you all, who does not feel the same patriotic enthusiasm which animates the breasts of native citizens. Besides the motives for indignation, which the generality of them have, against the vile miscreants of France who wish to lord it over the world, you, as Catholics, have a motive yet more powerful; which is, that they have profaned and destroyed your churches, barbarously Edition: current; Page: [1359] oppressed, banished, and murdered, your bishops, priests, monks and nuns; and have carried their audacity so far, as to lay their sacrilegious, polluted, hands on the Lord’s anointed, the visible head of the church, the common father of all the faithful. May we, then, never again hear from the mouth of any Irish Catholic, that he rejoices at every victory, and applauds every action, of the French, because they are the enemies of his English oppressors. Granting the reality of the oppression of which you complain, and that you have suffered it all purely on account of your attachment to the catholic faith, which has been the glory of your nation from St. Patrick to the present day: yet what has this in common with the defence of the constitution, the government and laws of united America? This country has received you into her bosom with the greatest affection: she makes you partakers of the same privileges and* immunities which her native sons enjoy: she takes under her protection your lives, property and religion. The most of you are probably settled here for life: many of you have wives and children, to whom you are tenderly attached, and whose welfare, as well as your own, is intimately connected with the welfare of the country. It is, therefore, evidently your interest, that America remain free and independent, in order that the blessings of liberty and good government may be transmitted to your posterity. It would be the height of baseness and ingratitude not to join heart and hand in defending the land where you earn your bread, and enjoy all the happy advantages which result from social life. England, which you deem your enemy and oppressor, it is true, is grappling with the nation which is now plundering and insulting us. It is not, for that reason, the cause of England that we are called to defend. I know, that, to engage the ignorant and unwary on the side of France, it has been said by her partisans, that she is defending the cause of all the oppressed, throughout the world, against their tyrants, and the cause of republicanism against monarchy: but this language is too stale to pass current, at this time, even with the most uninformed; especially since she has swallowed up all the republics of the old world. France is the great oppressor of the universe; and, therefore, opposition to her is the common cause of the human race against their tyrants, plunderers Edition: current; Page: [1360] and murderers: it is the cause of every regular government, and of all civilized society against disorganization, anarchy and terror: it is the cause of all religion and virtue against deism, atheism and every species of immorality: it is your cause; it is my cause; it is every honest man’s cause: it is a cause, in which are deeply interested our lives, our property, our liberty, our conscience, our every thing that is dear to us for time and eternity. Fly, then, to the standard of this country; and oppose, by every mean in your power, all the open or insidious attacks of the enemy. Cheerfully subscribe your names to the address of this town to the president of the Union, in which an offer of life and fortune is made to him for the efficient defence of the country. No neutrality, my brethren: “he that is not with me, is against me,” is as true with respect to the land that feeds you, as with respect to God himself. Avoid all those men who seek to inflame your passions against England, in order to range you on the side of France. Read none of those seditious, lying, papers, in which our own rulers, the men of our choice, and all their measures, are perpetually villified, calumniated, and misrepresented, and in which every thing that is done by the French, however absurd, inconsistent and infamous, is forever extolled, and held up as the model of perfection; papers which, with truth and liberty for their motto, are always replete with falsehood and with the sentiments of slaves.

If you wish to escape the horrors which jacobinism has produced in France, and wherever else its pestilential maxims have gained ground, you must strive to destroy it in the bud; that is, you must suppress all insubordination, disobedience, or even disrespect, towards your civil rulers, as well as towards your ecclesiastical superiors. You have heard much of the rights of man, it is high time now to attend to the duties of man. Remember, that no one can ever have a right to do wrong, and that obedience and respect to your lawfully established rulers are among your strictest duties. The contrary conduct is extremely wrong and sinful. A spirit of disobedience and revolt is strangely prevalent among children and servants. This is, at present, a very general complaint;* and it is an abundant source of Edition: current; Page: [1361] jacobinism in the state. Attend, therefore, to family discipline; keep your dependents in proper subjection, and they will contract those habits of obedience and submission which will render them good citizens, and which will effectually counteract all the attempts of disorganizers to introduce anarchy and confusion into this now peaceful and happy land.

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Timothy Dwight (1752–1817). A native of Northampton, Massachusetts, and a Congregational minister, Dwight was regarded in his mature years as the dominant figure in Connecticut’s established order. A prodigy as a boy, he is said to have learned the alphabet in one lesson, to have been reading the Bible at four, and to have become familiar with Latin by six. He entered Yale at thirteen, was graduated in 1769, and returned as a tutor in 1771, a position he kept for six years. He left in 1777 to serve for two years as chaplain in General S. H. Parson’s Connecticut brigade. Politically active, Dwight continued in the ministry and in 1783 was ordained pastor of the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, where he remained for twelve years. He wrote patriotic songs and poems, including a lumbering epic of eleven books in rhymed pentameters, The Conquest of Canaan (1785), which was calculated to give America something comparable to Greece’s Iliad and Rome’s Aeneid.

Dwight’s fame, however, came as Ezra Stiles’s successor as president of Yale, a position he held from 1795 to his death. Yale dates its modern history from Dwight’s administration. Stiles disliked Dwight extremely, and his later detractors dubbed him Pope Dwight—while his admirers ranked him just behind St. Paul. A rigid Calvinist and a staunch Federalist, he battled with all his considerable energy against the rising tides of infidelity in religion and democracy in politics.

About all that the modern reader will know of Dwight’s poetry is the hymn “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord.” The prose exhibited here reflects a far-from-serene Fourth of July in 1798, when the Jacobins were seen as threatening the country from all quarters, not least in the form of Jeffersonian Republicans and their atheistic allies.

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Behold I come as a thief: Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

Revelation XVI. xv.

This passage is inserted as a parenthesis in the account of the sixth vial. To feel its whole force it will be necessary to recur to that account, and to examine it with some attention. It is given in these words.

V. 12. “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the king of the east might be prepared.”

13. “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.[”]

14. “For they are the spirits of* devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.”

15. “Behold I come as a thief: Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”

16. “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”

To this account is subjoined that of the seventh vial; at the effusion of which is accomplished a wonderful and most affecting convulsion of this guilty world, and the final ruin of the Antichristian empire. The circumstances of this amazing event are exhibited at large in the remainder of this, and in the three succeeding chapters.

Instead of employing the time, allowed by the present occasion, in stating the several opinions of commentators concerning this remarkable prophecy, opinions which you can examine at your leisure, I shall, as briefly as may be, state to you that, which appears to me to be its true meaning. This is necessary to be done, to prepare you for the use of it, which is now intended to be made.

In the 12th verse, under a natural allusion to the manner in which the ancient Babylon was destroyed, a description is given us of the measures, used by the Most High to prepare the way for the destruction Edition: current; Page: [1368] of the spiritual Babylon. The river Euphrates surrounded the walls, and ran through the middle, of the ancient Babylon, and thus became the means of its wealth, strength and safety. When Cyrus and Cyaxares,* the kings of Persia and Media, or, in the Jewish phraseology, of the east, took this celebrated city, they dried up, or emptied, the waters of the Euphrates, out of its proper channel, by turning them into a lake, or more probably a sunken region of the country, above the city. They then entered by the channel which passed through the city, made themselves masters of it, and overturned the empire. The emptying, or drying up, of the waters of the real Euphrates thus prepared the way of the real kings of the east for the destruction of the city and empire of the real Babylon. The drying up of the waters of the figurative Euphrates in the like manner prepares the way of the figurative kings of the east for the destruction of the city and empire of the figurative Babylon. The terms waters, Euphrates, kings, east, Babylon, are all figurative or symbolical; and are not to be understood as denoting real kings, or a real east, any more than a real Euphrates, or a real Babylon. The whole meaning of the prophet is, I apprehend, that God will, under this vial, so diminish the wealth, strength, and safety, of the spiritual or figurative Babylon, as effectually to prepare the way for its destroyers.

In the remaining verses an event is predicted, of a totally different kind; which is also to take place in the same period. Three unclean spirits, like frogs, are exhibited as proceeding out of the mouth of the dragon or Devil, of the beast or Romish government, and of the false prophet, or, as I apprehend, of the regular clergy of that hierarchy. These spirits are represented as working miracles, as going forth to the kings, of the whole world, to gather them; and as actually gathering them together to the battle of that great day of God Almighty, described in the remainder of this chapter, and in the three succeeding ones. Of this vast enterprise the miserable end is strongly marked, in the name of the place, into which they are said to be gathered—Armageddon—the mountain of destruction and mourning.

The writer of this book will himself explain to us what he intended by the word spirits in this passage. In his 1st Epistle, ch. iv. v. 1. he says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit; but try the spirits, whether Edition: current; Page: [1369] they be of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”*

i.e. Believe not every teacher, or doctrine, professing to come from God; but examine all carefully, that ye may know whether they come from God, or not; for many false prophets, or teachers passing themselves upon the church for teachers of truth, but in reality teachers of false doctrines, are gone out into the world.

In the same sense, if I am not deceived, is the word used in the passage under consideration. One great characteristic and calamity of this period is, therefore, that unclean teachers, or teachers of unclean doctrines, will spread through the world, to unite mankind against God. They are said to be three; i.e. several; a definite number being used here, as in many other passages of this book, for an indefinite one; to come out of the mouths of the three evil agents abovementioned; i.e. to originate in those countries, where they have principally co-operated against the kingdom of God; to be unclean; to resemble frogs; i.e. to be lothesome, clamorous, impudent, and pertinacious; to be the spirits of demons, i.e. to be impious, malicious, proud, deceitful, and cruel; to work miracles, or wonders; and to gather great multitudes of men to battle, i.e. to embark them in an open, professed enterprise, against God Almighty.

Having thus summarily explained my views of this prophecy, I shall now for the purpose of presenting it in a more distinct and comprehensive view, draw together the several parts of it in a paraphrase.

In the sixth great division of the period of providence, denoted by the vials filled with divine judgments and emptied on the world, the wealth, strength and safety of the Antichristian empire will be greatly lessened, and thus effectual preparation will be made for its final overthrow.

In the meantime several teachers of false and immoral doctrines will arise in those countries, where the powers of the Antichristian empire have especially distinguished themselves, by corrupting the truth, and persecuting the followers, of Christ; the character of which teachers and their doctrines will be impure, lothesome, impudent, pertinacious, proud, deceitful, impious, malicious, and cruel.

These teachers will, by their doctrines and labours, openly, professedly, Edition: current; Page: [1370] and in an unusual manner, contend against God, and against his kingdom in this world, and will strive to unite mankind in this opposition.

Nor will they fail of astonishing success; for they will actually unite a large part of the human race, particularly in Christendom, in this impious undertaking.

But they will only unite them to their destruction; a destruction most awfully accomplished at the effusion of the seventh vial.

From this explanation it is manifest, that the prediction consists of two great and distinct parts; the preparation for the overthrow of the Antichristian empire; and the embarkation of men in a professed and unusual opposition to God, and to his kingdom, accomplished by means of false doctrines, and impious teachers.

By the ablest commentators the fifth vial is considered as having been poured out at the time of the Reformation. The first is supposed, and with almost absolute certainty, to have begun to operate not long after the year 800. If we calculate from that period to the year 1517, the year in which the Reformation began in Germany, the four first vials will be found to have occupied about four times 180 years. 180 years may therefore be estimated as the greatest, and 170 years as the least, duration of a single vial. From the year 1517 to the year 1798 there are 281 years. If the fifth vial be supposed to have continued 180 years, its termination was in the year 1697; if 170, in 1687. Of course the sixth vial may be viewed as having been in operation more than 100 years.

You will now naturally ask, What events in the Providence of God, found in this period, verify the prediction?

To this question I answer, generally, that the whole complexion of things appears to me to have, in a manner surprisingly exact, corresponded with the prediction. The following particulars will evince with what propriety this answer is returned.

Within this period the Jesuits, who constituted the strongest branch, and the most formidable internal support, of the Romish hierarchy, have been suppressed.

Within this period various other orders of the regular Romish clergy have in some countries been suppressed, and in others greatly reduced. Their permanent possessions have been confiscated, and their wealth and power greatly lessened.

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Within this period the Antichristian secular powers have been in most instances exceedingly weakened. Poland as a body politic is nearly annihilated. Austria has deeply suffered. Venice and the popish part of Switzerland as bodies politic have vanished. The Sardinian monarchy is on the eve of dissolution. Spain, Naples, Tuscany, and Genoa, are sorely wounded; and Portugal totters to its fall. By the treaty, now on the tapis in Germany, the Romish archbishoprics and bishoprics, in that empire, are proposed to be secularized, and as distinct governments to be destroyed. As the strength of these powers was the foundation, on which the hierarchy rested; so their destruction, or diminution, is a final preparation for its ruin.

In France, Belgium, the Italian, and Cis-rhenane republics, a new form of government has been instituted, the effect of which, whether it shall prove permanent, or not, must be greatly and finally to diminish the strength of the hierarchy.

In France, and in Belgium, the whole power and influence of the clergy of all descriptions have, in a sense, been destroyed; and their immense wealth has been diverted into new channels. In France, also, an open, violent, and inveterate war has been made upon the hierarchy, and carried on with unexampled bitterness and cruelty.*

Within this period, also, the revenues of the pope have been greatly curtailed; the territory of Avignon has been taken out of his hands; and his general weight and authority have exceedingly declined.

Within the present year his person has been seized, his secular government overturned, a republic formed out of his dominions, and an apparent and at least temporary end put to his dominion.

To all these mighty preparations for the ruin of the Antichristian empire may be added, as of the highest efficacy, that great change of character, of views, feelings, and habits, throughout many Antichristian countries, which assures us completely, that its former strength can never return.

Thus has the first part of this remarkable prophecy been accomplished. Not less remarkable has been the fulfilment of the second.

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About the year 1728, Voltaire, so celebrated for his wit and brilliancy, and not less distinguished for his hatred of christianity and his abandonment of principle, formed a systematical design to destroy christianity, and to introduce in its stead a general diffusion of irreligion and atheism. For this purpose he associated with himself Frederic the II, king of Prussia, and Mess. D’Alembert and Diderot, the principal compilers of the Encyclopedie; all men of talents, atheists, and in the like manner abandoned. The principal parts of this system were, 1st. The compilation of the Encyclopedie;* in which with great art and insidiousness the doctrines of natural as well as Christian theology were rendered absurd and ridiculous; and the mind of the reader was insensibly steeled against conviction and duty. 2. The overthrow of the religious orders in Catholic countries; a step essentially necessary to the destruction of the religion professed in those countries. 3. The establishment of a sect of philosophists to serve, it is presumed, as a conclave, a rallying point, for all their followers. 4. The appropriation to themselves, and their disciples, of the places and honours of members of the French Academy, the most respectable literary society in France, and always considered as containing none but men of prime learning and talents. In this way they designed to hold out themselves, and their friends, as the only persons of great literary and intellectual distinction in that country, and to dictate all literary opinions to the nation. 5. The fabrication of books of all kinds against christianity, especially such as excite doubt, and generate contempt and derision. Of these they issued, by themselves and their friends, who early became numerous, an immense number; so printed, as to be purchased for little or nothing, and so written, as to catch the feelings, and steal upon the approbation, of Edition: current; Page: [1373] every class of men. 6. The formation of a secret academy, of which Voltaire was the standing president, and in which books were formed, altered, forged, imputed as posthumous to deceased writers of reputation, and sent abroad with the weight of their names. These were printed and circulated, at the lowest price, through all classes of men, in an uninterrupted succession, and through every part of the kingdom.

Nor were the labours of this academy confined to religion. They attacked also morality and government, unhinged gradually the minds of men, and destroyed their reverence for every thing heretofore esteemed sacred.

In the mean time, the Masonic societies, which had been originally instituted for convivial and friendly purposes only, were, especially in France and Germany, made the professed scenes of debate concerning religion, morality, and government, by these philosophists*, who had in great numbers become Masons. For such debate the legalized existence of Masonry, its profound secresy, its solemn and mystic rites and symbols, its mutual correspondence, and its extension through most civilized countries, furnished the greatest advantages. All here was free, safe, and calculated to encourage the boldest excursions of restless opinion and impatient ardour, and to make and fix the deepest impressions. Here, and in no other place, under such arbitrary governments, could every innovator in these important subjects utter every sentiment, however daring, and attack every doctrine and institution, however guarded by law or sanctity. In the secure and unrestrained debates of the lodge, every novel, licentious, and alarming opinion was resolutely advanced. Minds, already tinged with philosophism, were here speedily blackened with a deep and deadly die; and those, which came fresh and innocent to the scene of contamination, became early and irremediably corrupted. A stubborn incapacity of conviction, and a flinty insensibility to every moral and natural tie, grew of course out of this combination of causes; and men were surely prepared, before themselves were aware, for every plot Edition: current; Page: [1374] and perpetration. In these hot beds were sown the seeds of that astonishing Revolution, and all its dreadful appendages, which now spreads dismay and horror throughout half the globe.

While these measures were advancing the great design with a regular and rapid progress, Doctor Adam Weishaupt, professor of the canon law in the University of Ingolstadt, a city of Bavaria (in Germany) formed, about the year 1777, the order of Illuminati. This order is professedly a higher order of Masons, originated by himself, and grafted on ancient Masonic institutions. The secresy, solemnity, mysticism, and correspondence of Masonry, were in this new order preserved and enhanced; while the ardour of innovation, the impatience of civil and moral restraints, and the aims against government, morals, and religion, were elevated, expanded, and rendered more systematical, malignant, and daring.

In the societies of Illuminati doctrines were taught, which strike at the root of all human happiness and virtue; and every such doctrine was either expressly or implicitly involved in their system.

The being of God was denied and ridiculed.

Government was asserted to be a curse, and authority a mere usurpation.

Civil society was declared to be the only apostasy of man.

The possession of property was pronounced to be robbery.

Chastity and natural affection were declared to be nothing more than groundless prejudices.

Adultery, assassination, poisoning, and other crimes of the like infernal nature, were taught as lawful, and even as virtuous actions.

To crown such a system of falshood and horror all means were declared to be lawful, provided the end was good.

In this last doctrine men are not only loosed from every bond, and from every duty; but from every inducement to perform any thing which is good, and, abstain from any thing which is evil; and are set upon each other, like a company of hellhounds to worry, rend, and destroy. Of the goodness of the end every man is to judge for himself; and most men, and all men who resemble the Illuminati, will pronounce every end to be good, which will gratify their inclinations. The great and good ends proposed by the Illuminati, as the ultimate objects of their union, are the overthrow of religion, government, and human society civil and domestic. These they pronounce to be so Edition: current; Page: [1375] good, that murder, butchery, and war, however extended and dreadful, are declared by them to be completely justifiable, if necessary for these great purposes. With such an example in view, it will be in vain to hunt for ends, which can be evil.

Correspondent with this summary was the whole system. No villainy, no impiety, no cruelty, can be named, which was not vindicated; and no virtue, which was not covered with contempt.

The names by which this society was enlarged, and its doctrines spread, were of every promising kind. With unremitted ardour and diligence the members insinuated themselves into every place of power and trust, and into every literary, political and friendly society; engrossed as much as possible the education of youth, especially of distinction; became licensers of the press, and directors of every literary journal; waylaid every foolish prince, every unprincipled civil officer, and every abandoned clergyman; entered boldly into the desk, and with unhallowed hands, and satanic lips, polluted the pages of God; inlisted in their service almost all the booksellers, and of course the printers, of Germany; inundated the country with books, replete with infidelity, irreligion, immorality, and obscenity; prohibited the printing, and prevented the sale, of books of the contrary character; decried and ridiculed them when published in spite of their efforts; panegyrized and trumpeted those of themselves and their coadjutors; and in a word made more numerous, more diversified, and more strenuous exertions, than an active imagination would have preconceived.

To these exertions their success has been proportioned. Multitudes of the Germans, notwithstanding the gravity, steadiness, and sobriety of their national character, have become either partial or entire converts to these wretched doctrines; numerous societies have been established among them; the public faith and morals have been unhinged; and the political and religious affairs of that empire have assumed an aspect, which forebodes its total ruin. In France, also, Illuminatism has been eagerly and extensively adopted; and those men, who have had, successively, the chief direction of the public affairs of that country, have been members of this society. Societies have also been erected in Switzerland and Italy, and have contributed probably to the success of the French, and to the overthrow of religion and government, in those countries. Mentz was delivered up to Edition: current; Page: [1376] Custine by the Illuminati; and that general appears to have been guillotined, because he declined to encourage the same treachery with respect to Manheim.

Nor have England and Scotland escaped the contagion. Several societies have been erected in both of those countries. Nay in the private papers, seized in the custody of the leading members in Germany, several such societies are recorded as having been erected in America, before the year 1786.*

It is a remarkable fact, that a large proportion of the sentiments, here stated, have been publicly avowed and applauded in the French legislature. The being and providence of God have been repeatedly denied and ridiculed. Christ has been mocked with the grossest insult. Death, by a solemn legislative decree has been declared to be an eternal sleep. Marriage has been degraded to a farce, and the community, by the law of divorce, invited to universal prostitution. In the school of public instruction atheism is professedly taught; and at an audience before the legislature, Nov. 30, 1793, the head scholar declared, that he and his schoolfellows detested a God; a declaration received by the members with unbounded applause, and rewarded with the fraternal kiss of the president, and with the honors of the sitting.

I presume I have sufficiently proved the fulfilment of the second part of this remarkable prophesy; and shewn, that doctrines and teachers, answering to the description, have arisen in the very countries specified, and that they are rapidly spreading through the world, to engage mankind in an open and professed war against God. I shall only add, that the titles of these philosophistical books have, in various instances, been too obscene to admit of a translation by a virtuous man, and in a decent state of society. So fully are these teachers entitled to the epithet unclean.

Assuming now as just, for the purposes of this discourse, the explanation, which has been given, I shall proceed to consider the import of the text.

The text is an affectionate address of the Redeemer to his children, teaching them that conduct, which he wills them especially to pursue Edition: current; Page: [1377] in this alarming season. It is the great practical remark, drawn by infinite wisdom and goodness from a most solemn sermon, and cannot fail therefore to merit our highest attention. Had he not, while recounting the extensive and dreadful convulsion, described in the context, made a declaration of this nature, there would have been little room for the exercise of any emotions, beside those of terror and despair. The gloom would have been universal and entire; a blank midnight without a star to cheer the solitary darkness. But here a hope, a promise, is furnished to such as obey the injunction, by which it is followed; a luminary like that, which shone to the wise men of the east, is lighted up to guide our steps to the Author of peace and salvation.

Blessed, even in this calamitous season, saith the Saviour of men, is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.

Sin is the nakedness and shame of the scriptures, and righteousness the garment which covers it. To watch and keep the garments is, of course, so to observe the heart and the life, so carefully to resist temptation and abstain from sin, and so faithfully to cultivate holiness and perform duty, that the heart and the life shall be adorned with the white robes of evangelical virtue, the unspotted attire of spiritual beauty.

The cautionary precept given to us by our Lord is, therefore,

That we should be eminently watchful to perform our duty faithfully, in the trying period, in which our lot is cast.

To those, who obey, a certain blessing is secured by the promise of the Redeemer.

[I.] The great and general object, aimed at by this command, and by every other, is private, personal obedience and reformation of life; personal piety, righteousness, and temperance.

To every man is by his Creator especially committed the care of himself; of his time, his talents, and his soul. He knows, or may know, better than any other man, his wants, his sins, and his dangers, and of course the means of relief, reformation, and escape. No one, so well as he, can watch the approach of temptation, so feelingly pray for divine assistance, or so profitably resolve on future obedience. In truth no resolutions, no prayers, no watchfulness of others, will profit him at all, unless seconded by his own. No other person Edition: current; Page: [1378] can make any useful impressions on our hearts, or our lives, unless by rousing in us the necessary exertions. All extraneous labours terminate in this single point: it is the end of every doctrine, exhortation, and reproof, of every moral and religious institution.

The manner, in which such obedience is to be performed, and such reformation accomplished, is described to you weekly in the desk, and daily in the scriptures. A detail of it, therefore, will not be necessary, nor expected, on the present occasion. You already know what is to be done, and the manner in which it is to be done. You need not be told, that you are to use all efforts of your own, and to look humbly and continually to God to render those efforts successful; that you are to resist carefully and faithfully every approaching temptation, and every rising sin; that you are to resolve on newness of life, and to seize every occasion, as it presents itself, to honour God, and to bless your fellow men; that you are strenuously to contend against evil habits, and watchfully to cherish good ones; and that you are constantly to aim at uniformity and eminency in a holy life, and to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”

But it may be necessary to remind you, that personal obedience and reformation is the foundation, and the sum, of all national worth and prosperity. If each man conducts himself aright, the community cannot be conducted wrong. If the private life be unblamable, the public state must be commendable and happy.

Individuals are often apt to consider their own private conduct as of small importance to the public welfare. This opinion is wholly erroneous and highly mischievous. No man can adopt it, who believes, and remembers, the declarations of God. If “one sinner destroyeth much good,” if “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” if ten righteous persons, found in the polluted cities of the vale of Siddim, would have saved them from destruction, the personal conduct of no individual can be insignificant to the safety and happiness of a nation. On the contrary, the advantages to the public of private virtue, faithful prayer and edifying example, cannot be calculated. No one can conjecture how many will be made better, safer, and happier, by the virtue of one.

Wherever wealth, politeness, talents, and office, lend their aid to the inherent efficacy of virtue, its influence is proportionally greater. In this case the example is seen by greater numbers, is regarded with Edition: current; Page: [1379] more respectful attention, and felt with greater force. The piety of Hezekiah reformed and saved a nation. Men far inferior in station to kings, and possessed of far humbler means of doing good, may still easily circulate through multitudes both virtue and happiness. The beggar on the dunghill may become a public blessing. Every parent, if a faithful one, is a public blessing of course. How delightful a path of patriotism is this?

It is also to be remembered, that this is the way, in which the chief good, ever placed in the power of most persons, is to be done. If this opportunity of serving God, and befriending mankind, be lost, no other will by the great body of men ever be found. Few persons can be concerned in settling systems of faith, moulding forms of government, regulating nations, or establishing empires. But almost all can train up a family for God, instil piety, justice, kindness and truth, distribute peace and comfort around a neighbourhood, receive the poor and the outcast into their houses, tend the bed of sickness, pour balm into the wounds of pain, and awaken a smile in the aspect of sorrow. In the secret and lowly vale of life, virtue in its most lovely attire delights to dwell. There God, with peculiar complacency, most frequently finds the inestimable ornament of a meek and quiet spirit; and there the morning and the evening incense ascends with peculiar fragrance to heaven. When angels became the visitors, and the guests, of Abraham, he was a simple husbandman.

Besides, this is the great mean of personal safety and happiness. No good man was ever forgotten, or neglected, of God. To him duty is always safety. Around the tabernacle of every one, that feareth God, the angel of protection will encamp, and save him from the impending evil.

II. Among the particular duties required by this precept, and at the present time, none holds a higher place than the observation of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath and its ordinances have ever been the great means of all moral good to mankind. The faithful observation of the sabbath is, therefore, one of the chief duties and interests of men; but the present time furnishes reasons, peculiar, at least in degree, for exemplary regard to this divine institution. The enemies of God have by private argument, ridicule, and influence, and by public decrees, pointed their especial malignity against the Sabbath; and have expected, and Edition: current; Page: [1380] not without reason, that, if they could annihilate it, they should overthrow christianity. From them we cannot but learn its importance. Enemies usually discern, with more sagacity, the most promising point of attack, than those who are to be attacked. In this point are they to be peculiarly opposed. Here, peculiarly, are their designs to be baffled. If they fail here, they will finally fail. Christianity cannot fall, but by the neglect of the Sabbath.

I have been credibly informed, that, some years before the Revolution, an eminent philosopher of this country, now deceased, declared to David Hume, that Christianity would be exterminated from the American colonies within a century from that time. The opinion has doubtless been often declared and extensively imbibed; and has probably furnished our enemies their chief hopes of success. Where religion prevails, their system cannot succeed. Where religion prevails, Illuminatism cannot make disciples, a French directory cannot govern, a nation cannot be made slaves, nor villains, nor atheists, nor beasts. To destroy us, therefore, in this dreadful sense, our enemies must first destroy our Sabbath, and seduce us from the house of God.

Religion and Liberty are the two great objects of defensive war. Conjoined, they unite all the feelings, and call forth all the energies, of man. In defense of them, nations contend with the spirit of the Maccabees; “one will chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.” The Dutch, in defense of them, few and feeble as they were in their infancy, assumed a gigantic courage, and grew like the fabled sons of Alous to an instantaneous and gigantic strength, broke the arms of the Spanish empire, swept its fleets from the ocean, pulled down its pride, plundered its treasures, captivated its dependencies, and forced its haughty monarch to a peace on their own terms. Religion and liberty are the meat and the drink of the body politic. Withdraw one of them, and it languishes, consumes, and dies. If indifference to either at any time becomes the prevailing character of a people, one half of their motives to vigorous defense is lost, and the hopes of their enemies are proportionally increased. Here, eminently, they are inseparable. Without religion we may possibly retain the freedom of savages, bears, and wolves; but not the freedom of New-England. If our religion were gone, our state of society would perish with it; and nothing would be left, which would be worth defending. Edition: current; Page: [1381] Our children of course, if not ourselves, would be prepared, as the ox for the slaughter, to become the victims of conquest, tyranny, and atheism.

The Sabbath, with its ordinances, constitutes the bond of union to christians; the badge by which they know each other; their rallying point; the standard of their host. Beside public worship they have no means of effectual descrimination. To preserve this is to us a prime interest and duty. In no way can we so preserve, or so announce to others, our character as christians; or to effectually prevent our nakedness and shame from being seen by our enemies. Now, more than ever, we are “not to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” Now, more than ever, are we to stand forth to the eye of our enemies, and of the world, as open, determined christians; as the followers of Christ; as the friends of God. Every man, therefore, who loves his country, or his religion, ought to feel, that he serves, or injures, both, as he celebrates, or neglects, the Sabbath. By the devout observation of this holy day he will reform himself, increase his piety, heighten his love to his country, and confirm his determination to defend all that merits his regard. He will become a better man, and a better citizen.

The house of God is also the house of social prayer. Here nations meet with God to ask, and to receive, national blessings. On the Sabbath, and in the sanctuary, the children of the Redeemer will, to the end of the world, assemble for this glorious end. Here he is ever present to give more than they can ask. If we faithfully unite, here, in seeking his protection, “no weapon formed against us will prosper.”

3. Another duty, to which we are also eminently called, is an entire separation from our enemies. Among the moral duties of man none hold a higher rank than political ones, and among our own political duties none is more plain, or more absolute, than that which I have now mentioned.

In the eighteenth chapter of this prophecy, in which the dreadful effects of the seventh vial are particularly described, this duty is expressly enjoined on christians by a voice from heaven. “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” Under the evils and dangers of the sixth vial, the command in the text was given; under those of the seventh, the command Edition: current; Page: [1382] which we are now considering. The world is already far advanced in the period of the sixth. In the text we are informed, that the Redeemer will hasten the progress of his vengeance on the enemies of his church, during the effusion of the two last vials. If, therefore, the judgments of the seventh are not already begun, a fact of which I am doubtful, they certainly cannot be distant. The present time is, of course, the very period for which this command was given.

The two great reasons for the command are subjoined to it by the Saviour—“that ye be not partakers of her sins; and that ye receive not of her plagues”; and each is a reason of incomprehensible magnitude.

The sins of these enemies of Christ, and Christians, are of numbers and degrees, which mock account and description. All that the malice and atheism of the dragon, the cruelty and rapacity of the beast, and the fraud and deceit of the false prophet, can generate, or accomplish, swell the list. No personal, or national, interest of man has been uninvaded; no impious sentiment, or action, against God has been spared; no malignant hostility against Christ, and his religion, has been unattempted. Justice, truth, kindness, piety, and moral obligation universally, have been not merely trodden under foot; this might have resulted from vehemence and passion; but ridiculed, spurned, and insulted, as the childish bugbears of drivelling idiocy. Chastity and decency have been alike turned out of doors; and shame and pollution called out of their dens to the hall of distinction, and the chair of state. Nor has any art, violence, or means, been unemployed to accomplish these evils.

For what end shall we be connected with men, of whom this is the character and conduct? Is it that we may assume the same character, and pursue the same conduct? Is it, that our churches may become temples of reason, our Sabbath a decade, and our psalms of praise Marseillois hymns? Is it, that we may change our holy worship into a dance of Jacobin phrenzy, and that we may behold a strumpet personating a goddess on the altars of Jehovah? Is it that we may see the Bible cast into a bonfire, the vessels of the sacramental supper borne by an ass in public procession, and our children, either wheedled or terrified, uniting in the mob, chanting mockeries against God, and hailing in the sounds of Ca ira the ruin of their religion, and the loss of their souls? Is it, that we may see our wives and daughters the Edition: current; Page: [1383] victims of legal prostitution; soberly dishonoured; speciously polluted; the outcasts of delicacy and virtue, and the lothing of God and man? Is it, that we may see, in our public papers, a solemn comparison drawn by an American Mother club between the Lord Jesus Christ and a new Marat; and the fiend of malice and fraud exalted above the glorious Redeemer?

Shall we, my brethren, become partakers of these sins? Shall we introduce them into our government, our schools, our families? Shall our sons become the disciples of Voltaire, and the dragoons of Marat;* or our daughters the concubines of the Illuminati?

Some of my audience may perhaps say, “We do not believe such crimes to have existed.” The people of Jerusalem did not believe, that they were in danger, until the Chaldeans surrounded their walls. The people of Laish were secure, when the children of Dan lay in ambush around their city. There are in every place, and in every age, persons “who are settled upon their lees,” who take pride in disbelief, and “who say in their heart, the Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.” Some persons disbelieve through ignorance; some choose not to be informed; and some determine not to be convinced. The two last classes cannot be persuaded. The first may, perhaps, be at least alarmed, when they are told, that the evidence of all this, and much more, is complete, that it has been produced to the public, and may with a little pains-taking be known by themselves.

There are others, who, admitting the fact, deny the danger. “If others,” say they, “are ever so abandoned, we need not adopt either their principles, or their practices.” Common sense has however declared, two thousand years ago, and God has sanctioned the declaration, that “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” Of this truth all human experience is one continued and melancholy proof. I need only add, that these persons are prepared to become the first victims of the corruption by this very selfconfidence and security.

Should we, however, in a forbidden connection with these enemies of God, escape, against all hope, from moral ruin, we shall still receive Edition: current; Page: [1384] our share of their plagues. This is the certain dictate of the prophetical injunction; and our own experience, and that of nations more intimately connected with them, has already proved its truth.

Look for conviction to Belgium; sunk into the dust of insignificance and meanness, plundered, insulted, forgotten, never to rise more. See Batavia wallowing in the same dust; the butt of fraud, rapacity, and derision, struggling in the last stages of life, and searching anxiously to find a quiet grave. See Venice sold in the shambles, and made the small change of a political bargain. Turn your eyes to Switzerland, and behold its happiness, and its hopes, cut off at a single stroke: happiness, erected with the labour and the wisdom of three centuries; hopes, that not long since hailed the blessings of centuries yet to come. What have they spread, but crimes and miseries; Where have they trodden, but to waste, to pollute, and to destroy?

All connection with them has been pestilential. Among ourselves it has generated nothing but infidelity, irreligion, faction, rebellion, the ruin of peace, and the loss of property. In Spain, in the Sardinian monarchy, in Genoa, it has sunk the national character, blasted national independence, rooted out confidence, and forerun destruction.

But France itself has been the chief seat of the evils, wrought by these men. The unhappy and ever to be pitied inhabitants of that country, a great part of whom are doubtless of a character similar to that of the peaceable citizens of other countries, and have probably no voluntary concern in accomplishing these evils, have themselves suffered far more from the hands of philosophists, and their followers, than the inhabitants of any other country. General Danican, a French officer, asserts in his memoirs, lately published, that three millions of Frenchmen have perished in the Revolution. Of this amazing destruction the causes by which it was produced, the principles on which it was founded, and the modes in which it was conducted, are an aggravation, that admits no bound. The butchery of the stall, and the slaughter of the stye, are scenes of deeper remorse, and softened with more sensibility. The siege of Lyons, and the judicial massacres at Nantes, stand, since the crucifixion, alone in the volume of human crimes. The misery of man never before reached the extreme of agony, nor the infamy of man its consummation. Collot D. Herbois and his satellites, Carrier and his associates, would claim eminence in a world of fiends, and will be marked with distinction in Edition: current; Page: [1385] the future hissings of the universe. No guilt so deeply died in blood, since the phrenzied malice of Calvary, will probably so amaze the assembly of the final day; and Nantes and Lyons may, without a hyperbole, obtain a literal immortality in a remembrance revived beyond the grave.

In which of these plagues, my brethren, are you willing to share? Which of them will you transmit as a legacy to your children?

Would you escape, you must separate yourselves. Would you wholly escape, you must be wholly separated. I do not intend, that you must not buy and sell, or exhibit the common offices of justice and good will; but you are bound by the voice of reason, of duty, of safety, and of God, to shun all such connection with them, as will interweave your sentiments or your friendship, your religion or your policy, with theirs. You cannot otherwise fail of partaking in their guilt, and receiving of their plagues.

4thly. Another duty, to which we are no less forcibly called, is union among ourselves.

The same divine Person, who spoke in the text, hath also said, “A house, a kingdom, divided against itself cannot stand.” A divided family will destroy itself. A divided nation will anticipate ruin, prepared by its enemies. Switzerland, Geneva, Genoa, Venice, the Sardinian territories, Belgium, and Batavia, are melancholy examples of the truth of this declaration of our Saviour; beacons, which warn, with a gloomy and dreadful light, the nations who survive their ruin.

The great bond of union to every people is its government. This destroyed, or distrusted, there is no center left of intelligence, counsel, or action; no system of purposes, or measures; no point of rallying, or confidence. When a nation is ready to say, “What part have we in David, or what inheritance in the son of Jesse?” it will naturally subjoin, “Every man to his tent, O Israel!”

The candour and uprightness, with which our own government has acted in the progress of the present controversy, have forced encomiums even from its most bitter opposers, and excited the warmest approbation and applause of all its friends. Few objects could be more important, auspicious, or gratifying to christians, than to see the conduct of their rulers such, as they can, with boldness of access, bring before their God, and fearlessly commend to his favour and protection.

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In men, possessed of similar candour, adherence to our government, in the present crisis, may be regarded as a thing of course. They need not be informed, that the existing rulers must be the directors of our public affairs, and the only directors; that their views and measures will not and cannot always accord with the judgment of individuals, as the opinions of individuals accord no better with each other; that the officers of government are possessed of better information than private persons can be; that, if they had the same information, they would probably coincide with the opinions of their rulers; that confidence must be placed in men, imperfect as they are, in all human affairs, or no important business can be done; and that men of known and tried probity are fully deserving of that confidence.

At the present time this adherence ought to be unequivocally manifested. In a land of universal suffrage, where every individual is possessed of much personal consequence as in ours, the government ought, especially in great measures, to be as secure, as may be, of the harmonious and cheerful co-operation of the citizens. All success, here, depends on the hearty concurrence of the community; and no occasion ever called for it more.

But there are, even in this state, persons, who are opposed to the government. To them I observe, That the government of France has destroyed the independence of every nation, which has confided in it.

That every such nation has been ruined by its internal divisions, especially by the separation of the people from their government.

That they have attempted to accomplish our ruin by the same means, and will certainly accomplish it, if they can;

That the miseries suffered by the subjugated nations have been numberless and extreme, involving the loss of national honour, the immense plunder of public and private property, the conflagration of churches and dwellings, the total ruin of families, the butchery of great multitudes of fathers and sons, and the most deplorable dishonour of wives and daughters;

That the same miseries will be repeated here, if in their power.

That there is, under God, no mean of escaping this ruin, but union among ourselves, and unshaken adherence to the existing government;

That themselves have an infinitely higher interest in preserving the Edition: current; Page: [1387] independence of their country, than in any thing, which can exist, should it be conquered;

That they must stand, or fall, with their country; since the French, like all other conquerors, though they may for a little time regard them, as aids and friends, with a seeming partiality, will soon lose that partiality in a general contempt and hatred for them, as Americans. That should they, contrary to all experience, escape these evils, their children will suffer them as extensively as those of their neighbours; and

That to oppose, or neglect, the defence of their country, is to stab the breast, from which they have drawn their life.

I know not that even these considerations will prevail: if they do not, nothing can be suggested by me, which will have efficacy. I must leave them, therefore, to their consciences, and their God.

In the mean time, since the great facts, of which this controversy has consisted, have not, during the preceding periods, been thoroughly known, or believed, by all; and since all questions of expediency will be viewed differently by different eyes; I cannot but urge a general spirit of conciliation. To men labouring under mere mistakes, and prejudices void of malignity, hard names are in most cases unhappily applied, and unkindness is unwisely exhibited. Multitudes, heretofore attached to France with great ardour, have, from full conviction of the necessity of changing their sentiments and their conduct, come forth in the most decisive language, and determined conduct, of defenders of their country. More are daily exhibiting the same spirit and measures. Almost all native Americans will, I doubt not, speedily appear in the same ranks; and none should, in my opinion, be discouraged by useless obloquy.

5. Another duty, injoined in the text, and highly incumbent on us at this time, is unshaken firmness in our opposition.

A steady and invincible firmness is the chief instrument of great atchievements. It is the prime mean of great wealth, learning, wisdom, power and virtue; and without it nothing noble or useful is usually accomplished. Without it our separation from our enemies, and our union among ourselves, will avail to no end. The cause is too complex, the object too important, to be determined by a single effort. It is infinitely too important to be given up, let the consequence Edition: current; Page: [1388] be what it may. No evils, which can flow from resistance, can be so great as those, which must flow from submission. Great sacrifices of property, of peace, and of life, we may be called to make, but they will fall short of complete ruin. If they should not, it will be more desirable, beyond computation, to fall in the honourable and faithful defence of our families, our country, and our religion, than to survive, the melancholy, debased, and guilty spectators of the ruin of all. We contend for all that is, or ought to be, dear to man. Our cause is eminently that, in which “he who seeketh to save his life shall lose it, and he who loseth it,” in obedience to the command of his Master, “shall find it” beyond the grave. To our enemies we have done no wrong. Unspotted justice looks down on all our public measures with a smile. We fight for that, for which we can pray. We fight for the lives, the honor, the safety, of our wives and children, for the religion of our fathers, and for the liberty, “with which Christ hath made us free.” “We jeopard our lives,” that our children may inherit these glorious blessings, be rescued from the grinding insolence of foreign despotism, and saved from the corruption and perdition of foreign atheism. I am a father. I feel the usual parental tenderness for my children. I have long soothed the approach of declining years with the fond hope of seeing my sons serving God and their generation around me. But from cool conviction I declare in this solemn place, I would far rather follow them one by one to an untimely grave, than to behold them, however prosperous, the victims of philosophism. What could I then believe, but that they were “nigh unto cursing, and that their end was to be burned.”

From two sources only are we in danger of irresolution; avarice, and a reliance on those fair professions, which our enemies have begun to make, and which they will doubtless continue to make, in degrees, and with insidiousness, still greater.

On the first of these sources I observe, that, if we grudge a part of our property in the defence of our country, we lose the whole; and not only the whole of our property, but all our comforts, and all our hopes. Every enjoyment of life, every solace of sorrow, will be offered up in one vast hecatomb at the shrine of pride, plunder, impurity, and atheism. Those “who fear not God, regard not man.” All interests, beside their own, are in the view of such men the sport of wantonness, of insolence, and of a heart of millstone. They and their Edition: current; Page: [1389] engines will soon tell you, if you do not put it out of their power, as one of the same engines told the miserable inhabitants of Neuwied (in Germany) unhappily placing confidence in their professions. Hear the story, in the words of Professor Robison,

If ever there was a spot upon earth, where men may be happy in a state of cultivated society, it was the little principality of Neuwied. I saw it in 1770. The town was neat, and the palace handsome and in good state. But the country was beyond conception delightful; not a cottage that was out of repair; not a hedge out of order. It had been the hobby of the prince (pardon me the word) who made it his daily employment to go through his principality, and assist every housholder, of whatever condition, with his advice and with his purse; and when a freeholder could not of himself put things into a thriving condition, the prince sent his workmen and did it for him. He endowed schools for the common people and two academies for the gentry and the people of business. He gave little portions to the daughters, and prizes to the well-behaving sons of the labouring people. His own houshold was a pattern of elegance and œconomy; his sons were sent to Paris, to learn elegance, and to England, to learn science and agriculture. In short the whole was like a romance, and was indeed romantic. I heard it spoken of with a smile at the table of the bishop of Treves, and was induced to see it the next day as a curiosity. Yet even here the fanaticism of Knigge (one of the founders of the Illuminati) would distribute his poison, and tell the blinded people that they were in a state of sin and misery, that their prince was a despot, and that they would never be happy ‘till he was made to fly, and ‘till they were made all equal.

They got their wish. The swarm of French locusts sat down at Neuwied’s beautiful fields, in 1793, and intrenched themselves; and in three months prince’s and farmers’ houses, and cottages, and schools, and academies, all vanished. When they complained of their miseries to the French general, René le Grand, he replied, with a contemptuous and cutting laugh, “All is ours. We have left you your eyes to cry.”

Will you trust such professions? Have not your enemies made them to every country, which they have subjugated? Have they fulfilled them to one? Will they prove more sincere to you? Have they not deceived you in every expectation hitherto? On what grounds can you rely on them hereafter?

Will you grudge your property for the defence of itself, of your families, of yourselves. Will you preserve it to pay the price of a Dutch loan? to have it put in requisition by the French Directory? to Edition: current; Page: [1390] label it on your doors, that they may, without trouble and without a tax bill, send their soldiers and take it for the use of the Republic? Will you keep it to assist them to pay their fleets and armies for subduing you? and to maintain their forts and garrisons for keeping you in subjection? Shall it become the purchase of a French fete, holden to commemorate the massacres of the 10th of August, the butcheries of the 3d of September, or the murder of Louis the 16th, your former benefactor? Shall it furnish the means for representatives of the people to roll through your streets on the wheels of splendour, to imprison your sons and fathers; to seize on all the comforts, which you have earned with toil, and laid up with care; and to gather your wives, sisters, and daughters, into their brutal seraglios? Shall it become the price of the guillotine, and pay the expense of cleansing your streets from brooks of human blood?

Will you rely on men whose principles justify falshood, injustice, and cruelty? Will you trust philosophists? men who set truth at nought, who make justice a butt of mockery, who deny the being and providence of God, and laugh at the interests and sufferings of men? Think not that such men can change. They can scarcely be worse. There is not a hope that they will become better.

But perhaps you may be alarmed by the power, and the successes, of your enemies. I am warranted to declare, that the ablest judge of this subject in America has said, that, if we are united, firm, and faithful to ourselves, neither France, nor all Europe, can subdue these states. Against other nations they contended with great and decisive advantages. Those nations were near to them, were divided, feeble, corrupted, seduced by philosophists, slaves of despotism, and separated from their government. None of these characters can be applied to us, unless we voluntarily retain those, which depend on ourselves. Three thousand miles of ocean spread between us and our enemies, to enfeeble and disappoint their efforts. They will not here contend with silken Italians, with divided Swissers, nor with self-surrendered Belgians and Batavians. They will find a hardy race of freemen, uncorrupted by luxury, unbroken by despotism; enlightened to understand their privileges, glowing with independence, and determined to be free, or to die: men who love, and who will defend, their families, their country, and their religion: men fresh from triumph, and strong in a recent and victorious Revolution. Doubled, since that Revolution Edition: current; Page: [1391] began, in their numbers, and quadrupled in their resources and advantages, at home, in a country formed to disappoint invasion, and to prosper defence, under leaders skilled in all the arts and duties of war, and trained in the path of success, they have, if united, firm, and faithful, every thing to hope, and, beside the common evils of war, nothing to fear.

Think not that I trust in chariots and in horses. My own reliance is, I hope, I ardently hope yours is, also, on the Lord our God. All these are his most merciful blessings, and, as such, most supporting consolations to us. They are the very means, which he has provided for our safety, and our hope. Stupidity, sloth, and ingratitude, can alone be blind to them as tokens for good. We are not, my brethren, to look for miracles, nor to expect God to accomplish them. We are to trust in him for the blessings of a regular and merciful providence. Such a providence is over us for good. I have recited abundant proofs, and could easily recite many more. All these are means, with which we are to plant, and to water, and in answer to our prayers God will certainly give the increase.

But I am peculiarly confident in the promised blessing of the text. Our contention is a plain duty to God. The same glorious Person, who has commanded it, has promised to crown our obedience with his blessing; and has thus illumined this gloomy prediction, and shed the dawn of hope and comfort over this melancholy period.

To you the promise is eminently supporting. He has won your faith by the great things he has already done for your fathers, and for you. The same Almighty Hand, which destroyed the fleet of Chebucto by the storm, and whelmed it in the deep; which conducted into the arms of Manly, and of Mugford, those means of war, which for the time saved your country; which raised up your Washington to guide your armies and your councils; which united you with your brethren against every expectation and hope; which disappointed the devices of enemies without, and traitors within; which bade the winds and the waves fight for you at Yorktown; which has, in later periods, repeatedly disclosed the machinations of your enemies, and which has now roused a noble spirit of resistance to intrigue and to terror; will accomplish for you a final deliverance from the hand of those, “who seek your hurt.” He has been your fathers’ God, and he will be yours.

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Look through the history of your country. You will find scarcely less glorious and wonderful proofs of divine protection and deliverance, uniformly administered through every period of our existence as a people, than shone to the people of Israel in Egypt, in the wilderness, and in Canaan. Can it be believed, can it be, that Christianity has been so planted here, the church of God so established, so happy a government constituted, and so desirable a state of society begun, merely to shew them to the world, and then destroy them? No instance can be found in the providence of God, in which a nation so wonderfully established, and preserved, has been overthrown, until it had progressed farther in corruption. We may be cast down; but experience only will prove to me, that we shall be destroyed.

But the consideration, which ought of itself to decide your opinions and your conduct, and which adds immense weight to all the others, is that the alternative, as exhibited in the prediction, and in providence, is beyond measure dreadful, and is at hand. “Behold,” saith the Saviour, “I come as a thief”—suddenly, unexpectedly, alarmingly—as that wasting enemy, the burglar, breaks up the house in the hour of darkness, when all the inhabitants are lost in sleep and security. How strongly do the great events of the present day shew this awful advent of the King of Kings to be at the doors?

Turn your eyes, for a moment, to the face of providence, and mark its new and surprising appearance. The Jews, for the first time since the destruction of Jerusalem by Adrian, have, in these states, been admitted to the rights of citizenship; and have since been admitted to the same rights in Prussia. They have also, as we are informed, appointed a solemn delegation to examine the evidences of Christianity. In the Austrian dominions, it is asserted, they have agreed to observe the Christian Sabbath; and in England, have in considerable numbers embraced the Christian religion. New and unprecedented efforts have been made, and are fast increasing, in England, Scotland, Germany, and the United States, for the conversion of the heathen. Measures have, in Europe, and in America, been adopted, and are still enlarging, for putting an end to the African slavery, which will within a moderate period bring it to an end. Mohammedism is nearly extinct in Persia, one of the chief supports of that imposture. In Turkey, its other great support, the throne totters to its fall. The great calamities of the present period have fallen, also, almost exclusively upon the Edition: current; Page: [1393] Antichristian empire; and almost every part of that empire has drunk deeply of the cup. France, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, the Sardinian monarchy, the Austrian dominions, Venice, Genoa, popish Switzerland, the Ecclesiastical State, popish Germany, Poland, and the French West-Indies, have all been visited with judgments wonderful and terrible; and in exact accordance with prophecy have furthered their own ruin. The kings, or states, of this empire are now plainly “hating the whore, eating her flesh, and burning her with fire.” Batavia, protestant Switzerland, some parts of protestant Germany, and Geneva, have most unwisely, not to say wickedly, refused “to come out” and have therefore “partaken of the sins, and received of the plagues,” of their enemies. To the same unhappy cause our own smartings may all be traced; but blessed be God, there is reason to hope, that “we are escaping from the snare of the fowler.”

So sudden, so unexpected, so alarming a state of things has not existed since the deluge. Every mouth proclaims, every eye looks its astonishment. Wonders daily succeed wonders, and are beginning to be regarded as the standing course of things. As they are of so many kinds, exist in so many places, and respect so many objects; kinds, places and objects, all marked out in prophecy, exhibited as parts of one closely united system, and to be expected at the present time; they shew that this affecting declaration is even now fulfilling in a surprising manner, and that the advent of Christ is at least at our doors. Think how awful this period is. Think what convulsions, what calamities, are portended by that great Voice out of the temple of heaven from the Throne—“It is done!” by the voices and thunderings and lightnings, by the unprecedented shaking of the earth, the unexampled plague of hailstones, the fleeing of the islands, the vanishing of the mountains, the rending asunder of the Antichristian empire, the united ascent of all its sins before God, the falling of the cities of the nations, the general embattling of mankind against their Maker, and their final overthrow, in such immense numbers, that “all the fowls shall be filled with their flesh.”

God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, he reserveth wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind, and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his Edition: current; Page: [1394] feet. The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt; and the earth is burnt at his presence, yea the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can abide in the fierceness of his anger?”

In this amazing conflict, amidst this stupendous and immeasurable ruin, how transporting the thought, that safety and peace may be certainly found. O thou God of our fathers! our own God! and the God of our children! enable us so to watch, and keep our garments, in this solemn day, that our shame appear not, and that both we and our posterity may be entitled to the blessing which thou hast promised.

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henry holcombe a sermon occasioned by the death of washington fpage="1395" lpage="1414"


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Henry Holcombe (1762–1824). Born in South Carolina, Holcombe received no formal education after the age of eleven. He enlisted in the Revolutionary army early in the war and became an officer by the age of twenty-one. He converted to the Baptist faith about this time and was rebaptized (having been raised as a Presbyterian), and he achieved some fame for delivering fiery sermons to his troops from horseback. He became pastor of the Pine Creek Church in 1785, married the following year, and soon thereafter baptized his wife, her mother and brother, and his own father. In 1795 he became a pastor in Savannah, Georgia, and five years later he received a D.D. from the College of Rhode Island (Brown).

While Holcombe vigorously opposed deism and the theater, he generally mingled his religious and civic concerns by founding an orphanage in Savannah, working to improve the state’s penal code, establishing and supporting the Mount Enon Academy near Augusta, and publishing a literary and religious magazine called the Georgia Analytical Repository. He became ill in 1810 and moved to Philadelphia, hoping for better health in a different climate, and accepted a pastorate there. He tended toward isolationism of the kind recommended in Washington’s famous phrase “no entangling alliances,” which to Holcombe translated into a rejection of foreign missions. In his later years he preached against war as contrary to God’s revelation.

The sermon reprinted here is one of Holcombe’s most famous and one of hundreds preached all over America to mark the passing of “the father of his country,” George Washington. It was preached in Savannah on January 19, 1800, and repeated several times elsewhere.

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Know ye not that there is a great man fallen?

2d of Samuel, 3d Chap. and part of the 38th Verse.

In these words David refers to Abner, a distinguished officer of his day, who fell an unsuspecting victim to the well-known traitorous scheme, and by the bloody hand of Joab, whose brother Asahel, to save his own life, Abner had reluctantly slain in a battle at Gibeon. To awaken a correspondent sense of their great loss in the afflicted tribes, David addressed to them the pathetic inquiry adopted on this melancholy occasion, as applying with the most forcible propriety to the late Lieutenant General George Washington. Know ye not that in him a great man, a much greater than Abner, is fallen? The sufficiently visible effects of this penetrating conviction render a comparison of these great men unnecessary, would the dignity of my subject, and the solemnity which reigns over this unexampled and overflowing concourse admit it. Their coincidence in point of greatness, established by the highest authorities, whatever disparity as to the degrees of it, may exist, is all that is requisite to my purpose. In reliance therefore, on the plenitude of candor to which I am already greatly in arrears, however inadequate to the important service which has unexpectedly devolved on me, and with all the unaffected diffidence which overwhelms me, I shall make immediate advances towards the awful ground on which our greatest orators sink unnerved, and giants in literature stand and tremble! And though I am not about to deliver an oration, nor to pronounce an eulogium; but to preach a sermon, and briefly touch on one of the greatest merely human characters, I am fully apprised of the delicacy of my situation, and too sensibly feel the pressure of difficulties.

My feeble soul take courage! A Demosthenes or a Cicero might fail here without dishonor; and though the famed Cæsars, Alexanders, Pompies and Marlboroughs, must resign their inferior laurels to the more famous American general, he was but a man; all his greatness was derived from his and thy Creator, and thou wilt be assisted in the execution of thy arduous design by the prayers, candid allowances and liberal constructions of thine audience, who will deem Edition: current; Page: [1400] it very pardonable on thy theme to be defective. The first doctrinal observation which our text, and the occasion of our assembling, unitedly suggest, is seriously important: Great as Abner was, he fell; and Washington is fallen; it, therefore, undeniably follows that great men, as well as others, must fall. Though it would be absurd to attempt a formal proof of this doctrine and have the appearance of an insult on dying man, there is nothing that merits more frequent, or more serious consideration; and a few explanatory remarks on it are so far from being amiss, that they are indispensible. The heathens and deists, of all descriptions, believing the immortality of the human soul, consider their bodies as falling by death into corruption and dust, never to rise; and their notions of the state, exercises, and enjoyments of the soul after death are so vague, indistinct, and unimpressive, that they have little or no visible effect on their practice. Atheists, and such deists as believe the soul of man to be mortal, consider all who are fallen, and our immortal Washington among the rest, as plunged into undistinguished and irretrievable ruin! as consigned to their original nonentity!! Happily for our various interests, few, if any, of these gloomy monsters disgrace, or infest the United States: They are chiefly, if not altogether, confined to the smoke and flame in which they have involved miserable Europe. Let Americans never suffer their nature and its author to be insulted and degraded by the influence, or existence of such detestable sentiments;

  • Scorned be the man who thinks himself a brute;
  • Affronts his species, and his God blasphemes.

But gladly I turn your attention from the cold, lifeless principles, and painful uncertainty of the better sort of heathens and the deists, and especially from the insupportable horrors of annihilation, to what we are to understand by the fall of men in death; and, in a word, it is their fall from this world; from its honors, pleasures, profits; and from the exercise of their mortal powers. By a figure of speech, which puts a part for the whole, or the contrary, and common with inspired, and other writers, in saying that a great man is fallen, David means no more than that his mortal part is dead; but he was better informed than to suppose that even this was dead or fallen, to revive, to rise no more. We not only know from divine revelation, Edition: current; Page: [1401] but from an important and well attested fact, gloriously demonstrated at this time by its numerous and happy consequences, that our bodies are not only capable of a resurrection, but shall actually rise! Were the horrible reverse of these exhilirating representations true, inconsiderable indeed would be our cause of triumph in existence, or reason to boast of human excellence! “Verily every man, at his best state,” considered merely in his relation to this transitory scene, “is altogether vanity.” And the inevitable fall of the greatest, as well as all other men, when viewed in a true light, and considered in its eternal consequences, must fill the enlightened considerate mind with the most serious reflections. It is said,

  • Xerxis surveyed his mighty host with tears,
  • To think they’d die within an hundred years:

But judging from past events, what enormous devastations among the inhabitants of the earth must be spread in less than half that time! “Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live forever?” Where are all preceding generations, and the great men who illuminated and adorned them? Alas! the mighty ruins of mortality! With a few illustrious exemptions, recorded in the oracles of God, the silent, and almost imperceptibly slow, but steady and irresistibly strong current of time, has borne them into the boundless ocean of eternity! And yet Philip of Macedon was far from being alone, in needing daily to be told that he was a mortal man.

That all men must fall, is universally acknowledged; but too few apply this serious truth to their own cases; Doctor Young had reasons for his bold assertion, “All men think all men mortal but themselves.” And great men, from a variety of circumstances, are more than others, addicted to this waking dream, this sometimes fatal delusion; and strange as fatal! “Know ye not that there is a great man fallen?” and that consequently great men must fall! Riches, power, titles, universal applause, to which may be added even virtue and piety, avail nothing in this warfare, “Death enters, and there’s no defence.” Acknowledge this all do, they must, however inconsiderate and profane, for who can deny it? “But O, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” How natural, reasonable, and interesting is this? And one would think it might be added, how difficult to avoid it!

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  • As man perhaps the moment of his breath,
  • Receives the lurking principle of death;
  • The young disease that must subdue at length,
  • Grows with his growth, and strengthens with his strength.

And when these latent seeds of dissolution produce their ultimate effect, our text directs us in what regards our duty to the memories of the just. By fair and obvious implication, it says, the fall of a great man merits respectful and public attention.

Know ye not that there is a great man fallen?

This question was not asked for information, and it not only forcibly affirms the fall of a great man; but evidently excites to mourning on account of it, and proper expressions of respect for his memory. Know ye not, that is, are ye not apprised, or disposed to consider, as ye should be, and to practically declare, that in your judgment, there is a great man, a man of worth, and entitled to high and public regard, fallen?

And accordingly we find that David said to the people to whom he addressed the words of our text, “Rent your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner.” The sacred historian adds, “And king David himself followed the bier. And they buried Abner in Hebron: And the king lifted up his voice, and wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept.”

The solemnity concludes with an oration by the king, which produced the highest effects of oratory, and closes with an acknowledgment, that he was rendered weak though anointed king, by the loss of that great man. Parellel passages, in great variety, might be recited in confirmation of this doctrine. Instances are numerous in the patriarchal age, of burying persons of eminent piety and worth, with every mark of respect and solemnity.

The venerable founders of the Jewish church and nation, had the tribute of high encomiums, and genuine mourning for many days, paid to their memories and their merits. A beautiful specimen of ancient eulogy, is David’s lamentation over Saul and Jonathan. With an ardor and elevation peculiar to himself, he exclaims, “The beauty of Israel is slain in thy high places; how are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon, lest the daughters Edition: current; Page: [1403] of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. Ye mountains of Gilboa let there be no dew, neither let there be rain upon you, nor fields of offerings; for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil. From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty. Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their deaths they were not divided: They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. Ye daughters of Israel weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!”

This natural and laudable, as well as ancient and universal custom of honoring the pious and eminent dead, may be further justified by quotations from the new testament. At the grave of Lazarous, “Jesus wept”; devout men buried Stephen, who had the honor to be the first martyr in the christian cause, with great lamentation; and Paul mentions a number of the illustrious characters of antiquity, with the highest respect, and warmly recommends their noble and heroic conduct to the imitation of posterity. After bestowing on many the encomiums proper to their respective merits, he adds, “And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barack, and of Sampson, and of Jepthae, of David also, and of Samuel, and of the prophets; who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valient in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” So warm a panegyrist of these great men was the Apostle, that he avers, “Of them the world was not worthy.” And though many of these failed of obtaining the attention due to their merits in, and immediately after their respective generations, by having their names and worthy deeds enrolled in the volume of inspiration, God has plainly shewn us that the fall of a great good man should excite respectful and public attention. Encouraged, therefore, and in some degree assisted by such precedents, I will proceed to what is finally incumbent on me; and that is, to evince the applicability of my text to the illustrious deceased.

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It must be acknowledged that the scriptural and consequently rational and becoming custom of praising departed persons, has been shamefully abused. The great among the heathens have, in many instances, been exalted to celestial honors, and idolized to distant generations. And by persons of better information, funeral panegyric has been so indiscriminately bestowed, that it has blended all distinctions of character and become proverbially false. But it is not on these or any other accounts, to be refused on proper occasions, this would be falling into the opposite extreme. And perhaps a more proper occasion than the present for commendation and applause never occurred, or one on which higher might be bestowed, consistently with truth and moderation. Never I believe could it be said of any with more propriety than of General Washington, that what his acquaintances would condemn as below his merit, strangers would consider as the most fulsome adulation, or exaggerated applause. But to proceed: Most obviously does my text apply to this great man, considered as enriched with merely natural endowments. His features, actions, and whole deportment, before he was refined by learning, clothed with power, or known to fame, attracted every eye, fixed attention, and commanded respect. As the immediate effect of divine bounty he possessed the seeds whose blossoms and fruits ultimately rendered him the boast of his country, and the glory of the age. The rich furniture of his mind could receive no assistance from the common rules of art, because by innate strength it rose nobly superior to them, comprehending the true principles, and proper standard of criticism.* His perceptions were prompt, intuitive, clear; and were displayed from earliest youth in the facility and rapidity with which he acquired knowledge, and in the exact order, method and propriety conspicuous in the management of all his affairs. And to the fatal day which put a period to the most valuable of mortal lives, his conduct and atchievements, proclaimed his genius entirely original, superlatively bright, the offspring of the Father of Lights. In his vast mind centered that shining aggregate of excellencies which beamed with such effulgence in his dignified and manly countenance, and were so Edition: current; Page: [1405] eminently ornamental, I will not say of his country, nor of this generation, but of human nature. When we consider that all effects must have an adequate cause, we are led to trace the wonders which have appeared in Washington’s life, to, at least, an equally wonderful source: This we find in a soul calm and serene as the most delightful summer-evening, more expansive than the ocean, more resplendent than yonder sun, and steady as the poles! These intellectual, and consequently immortal treasures rendered him uncommonly great as the child of nature; and our text applies to him very forcibly as enlarged and enobled by mental acquisitions.

Divine Providence gave him opportunities and dispositions to add great acquired, to the greatest natural abilities. If his education were not classical, it was profound: If he had not the comparatively superficial knowledge of all names, he possessed an universal knowledge of things: And tho’ no great proportion of his precious time was spent in the study of dead languages, it was because the beautious objects of all kinds of useful and ornamental knowledge invited his attention and persuit, in all the copious elegance of English attire.

His great mind was occupied with correspondent objects. He had well arranged and distinct ideas of all assentially interesting, and truly important facts, domestic and foreign, antient and modern, temporal and spiritual. Among the subjects which Washington investigated, and the objects which he regarded with an assiduity and seriousness becoming their importance, were science, morality and religion; civil and religious liberty; agriculture commerce and navigation; tactics, and the different forms of civil government; the rise of revolutions, and falls of empires, in connection with their causes and consequences; and the religions, laws, customs, characters and origin of nations.

With a singular felicity of perception, he comprehended the subjects of his knowledge in all their extensions and relations; and we well know, that in his conversation, public speeches, and admirable writings, ease and strength were united with all the beauty and simplicity of precision. But as it would require talents brilliant as his own to do justice to a subject of such extent and sublimity, I shall conclude these imperfect remarks on his great literary merit, by observing that the honor of conferring on him the degree of L.L.D. was Edition: current; Page: [1406] reserved for Rhode-Island College:* From the œconomy observable in all the variety and profusion, if I may so express myself of heaven’s bounties, we are led to conclude that such mental strength and excellence as Washington possessed, must have been properly deposited, furnished with suitable organs, and intended for appropriate and important purposes: And our expectations are fully answered when we view him as entitled to the application of our text, by the disposals of an all superintending Providence.

Born and raised under a free government, he early imbibed, and always cherished, and retained the sacred principles of liberty, his birth right, inviolable. Though of respectable descent, ancestry need not be mentioned, where personal and intrinsic worth is so eminent and conspicuous. Nor does he derive any of his greatness from the large possessions with which his many and distinguished virtues, and services, were to as great a degree as he would permit, but by no means adequately rewarded: he conferred honor on affluence. The complicated organ of his vast and noble mind, a glorious specimen of divine ingenuity, was moderately large, elegantly proportioned, and amply endowed with agility and strength, gracefulness and dignity. In early youth his superior parts and abilities attracted public attention; and by traversing a trackless desert, obtaining the intelligence so Edition: current; Page: [1407] interesting to his beloved country, and saving Bradock’s army on the Monongahela, from the jaws of a cruel death by merciless savages, he proved himself capable of the most difficult, arduous and perilous services. The sagacity and prowess, promptitude and decision, which he displayed, about this time, on several trying occasions, were strongly indicative of his future elevation. And from the universal rectitude of his conduct in private and public, civil and religious life, as well as from the proofs he had furnished of his great military capacity, President Davis, long before there existed a thought of the late revolutionary war, said from the pulpit, “I may point out to the public that heroic youth, Col. Washington, whom I cannot but hope, providence has hitherto preserved for some important service to his country.” And this has since assumed the appearance of a divine prediction: For we feel, and the world knows what an important service he has rendered his country. When the unhappy controversy between Great-Britain and her thirteen American provinces, rose so high, and produced such effects, that the dreadful appeal to the sword was no longer dispensible, Washington, whose name can receive no additional lustre from epithets, was unanimosly appointed by the representatives of the American people, to head their undisciplined troops, almost without money or arms against British, well armed and well disciplined veterans. The bloody conflicts which ensued, the prodigies of address, valor and perserverance of the commander in chief, and the glorious result are well known and need not now be repeated. His superiority to difficulties, to all other men embarrassing and insuperable, unconquerable fortitude, well-timed, and well-planned attacks on a superior foe, and splendid victories, are clothed in all the elegance and pomp of language by historians and poets of the first eminence. Uninfluenced by ambition, when he had conducted us seven long years, through fields of blood and carnage, to sovereignty, independance and peace, like another Cincinnatus, he returned to his agricultural employments, and sought repose in the shades of retirement. Through his influence, an army angry and distressed from painful, important, and yet uncompensated services, sheathed their swords, and followed the example of their illustrious chief!

But his well-tried, and sterling merit, united to the splendor of his talents, and the unbounded confidence of his fellow-citizens, soon rendered it necessary, from the inefficacy of our governmental arrangements, Edition: current; Page: [1408] that he should again embark on the stormy sea of politics. Summoned by his country, to whom he could deny nothing, to assist in forming, and adopting our present energetic, yet free and happy constitution, he readily obeyed; and after the accomplishment of these important objects, he was called by the unanimous voice, of, at least, three millions of people to preside over these sovereign and independent states. To the presidential chair he continued a noble ornament, by the united wish of his grateful country, who delighted to honor him, eight years, and discharged the important duties of this high station with his usual wisdom and firmness, integrity and rectitude. And after retiring the second time, in full possession of the affections and confidence of the people, to the solitude which he was as capable of enjoying, as of adorning public life, he was prevailed on, tho’ hoary with years, and covered with glory, to accept the command of our armies, when the political hemisphere wore a most menacing and wrathful aspect. Behold the greatest general in the world, tho’ on the borders of three score and ten, in obedience to his much indebted country, ready, again, to take the field against her insulting foes!

And so obvious was the policy of this appointment, that it was anticipated, as well as ardently wished by every intelligent citizen. His martial and august appearance, the sound of his name and voice, the glance of his experienced eye, and the lightning of his sword at the head of our armies, rendered them gloriously enthusiastic, and absolutely invincible! But great as he was by nature, a liberal education, and the display and perfection of his superior powers, natural and acquired, in spheres of action the most conspicuous, elevated and important, he was still greater by the invaluable gifts of the God of grace. Considered as aggrandized by these, our text applies to him with the utmost propriety and force!

Know ye not that a great man, the greatest of men, is fallen?

He would have been equalled by several if he had not shone in the mild majesty of morals and religion. This lustre, when other things are equal, gives a decided superiority. Before, and an essential part of his honor was humility. He had as little of that tumid pride, which in its plentitude goes before destruction, as any man on earth. He always felt his dependance as man; and trusting in the living God, whom he served, his boldness and magnanimity, could be equalled Edition: current; Page: [1409] by nothing but his modesty and humility. By these radical advantages, he displayed an equanimity through the most trying extremes of fortune, which does the highest honor to the human character. He was the same whether struggling to keep the fragments of a naked army together in the dismal depths of winter, against a greatly superior foe, or presiding under the laurel wreath over four millions of free men!

He was too great to be depressed or elated by any thing that ceases with this life.

  • ’Tis moral grandeur makes the mighty man.
  • How little they who think ought great below!

Washington’s as all true wisdom ever did, and always must, began with the fear, which was the only fear he ever knew, the fear of the Lord of Hosts: And this was truly filial, for its transcendently glorious object, was equally the object of his supreme affection.

These divine and immortal principles preserved his tongue from every species of profanity, and not only his actions but his heart from pollution. Alexander conquered the world; but far from ruling his spirit, or being in any respect his own master, he fell an early and loathsome sacrifice to intemperance. Far greater than Alexander the great, was Washington: He ruled his appetites and passions in scenes of the greatest trial and temptation; and will remain forever a bright example, to all men, of temperance and moderation in all things, as well as a striking contrast to all, “The rational foul kennels of excess.”

His piety, though like his other shining excellencies unaustentatious, was genuine and exalted. Through the veil of all his modest reserve, it was discoverable in the whole tenor of his conduct, and especially in his admirable and appropriate answers to the numerous addresses of his almost adoring fellow-citizens where he uniformly, and with glowing gratitude ascribes all the glory of his unparralelled successes to God.

How high christianity stood in his estimation, and how near its interests lay to his heart, every one may see, who has read his excellent answers to the congratulatory addresses of various religious bodies, on his first election to the chief magistracy of these United States. And his opinion of religion in a political view, I will do myself the honor to give you in his own words; so that though alas! he is dead, Edition: current; Page: [1410] he still to his weeping country thus speaketh: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality, are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles. ‘Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabrick! Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge; in proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

Ye winds, wait these sentiments on your swift pinions; and ye sunbeams record them in more than golden characters, throughout the political world!

American, English, French, and all other politicians, hear him who was as famous in the cabinet, as formidable in the tented field! In proportion as he is regarded, will be prevented the effusion of blood; hostilities will cease, and order and confidence between rulers and the ruled, individuals and nations, will ensue.

The essential advantages of religion, in a political light, were discovered clearly, and felt impressively by the American sage, whose eagle eye distinguished plainly betwixt vain pretenders to religion, and its real possessors; and whose cool deliberative sagacity, discerned the difference between genuine religion, as delineated in the holy scriptures, and the empty forms, gross adulterations, and shameful abuses of it. And it is difficult to determine, whether he Edition: current; Page: [1411] were most correct and eminent in religious theory or practice. But one thing, and that of vast importance, is evident: Bright as this sun of human glory shone, with the sweetly blended rays of morality and religion, through every stage, and in every condition of life, like the cloudless star of day, gently and with increasing majesty, sinking beneath the western horizon, his mild effulgence was greatest in death!

  • His mind was tranquil and serene,
  • No terrors in his looks were seen;
  • A Saviour’s smile dispell’d the gloom,
  • And smooth’d his passage to the tomb.

O Death! never hadst thou, but in one astonishing instance, such a prisoner before!

A victory, which enraged Britain’s cannon, sword and gold, though well tried, could never effect, is thine! But monster! spare thy ghastly smile! Momentary will be thy triumph! As the declining sun, by divine energy, soon ascends with renewed splendors, Washington shall ere long burst thy bands asunder, all immortal! A while venerable shade! we must leave thy precious remains enshrined by trembling hands, with solemn pomp, and thy deathless part under the sublime character, of the spirit of a just man made perfect, in lively and well-founded hope of their re-union, and of the consummation of thy glory and felicity! And is a great man fallen? Is Washington no more? Alas is he gone! gone forever! The conqueror of royal armies and their mighty generals, the late president of the United States, and later commander in chief of the American armies, is fallen! The father, friend, benefactor and bulwark of his country, is fallen! Washington is fallen! A scene of action the most brilliant; a life with virtuous and heroic deeds, the most luminous, is now the subject of eulogy! All the respectful, affectionate, and aggrandizing epithets, contained in our language, are employed in vain, to set his exalted merit in an adequately conspicuous point of light: And we anticipate the elaborate productions of rival pens of the first distinction, now moving with celerity and ardor, to give an admiring world the life of Washington: But to draw his true portrait is more than mortal hands can do; “It merits a divine.” “When he went out to the gate, through the city, when he prepared his seat in the street, the young men saw him and hid themselves; and the aged arose and stood up; the princes Edition: current; Page: [1412] refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth; the nobles held their peace and their tongues cleaved to the roof of their mouth. When the ear heard him, then it blessed him; and when the eye saw him, it gave witness to him; because he delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish, came upon him; and he caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. He put on righteousness, and it clothed him; his judgment was a robe and a diadem. He was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame; he was a father to the poor, and the cause that he knew not he searched out. And he brake the jaws of the wicked and pluckt the spoil out of his teeth.” To this inimitable sketch by the pencil of inspiration, let us add, in silent grief for our irreparable loss, badges of deep mourning, melting eyes and bleeding hearts, which will more emphatically express his worth than the sublimest imagery, and the most glowing encomium in the hands of erudition and art.

And permit me to observe, that the greatest honor of all that we can do to his memory, and the best improvement that we can make of his life and death is to imitate his virtuous and pious examples: And this may be done by those of the tenderest capacities, and in the lowest ranks of society.

  • Honor and fame from no condition rise,
  • Act well your part there all the honor lies.

My fair hearers, may I not hope that you will do more than weep? This is natural, it is becoming, it is unavoidable. Many of you could not refrain from tears when, some years ago, you saw the face of the hero who had, for you, endured so many painful years of fatigue, and hardships of all kinds, amidst dangers in all forms: Much more abundantly must your tears flow, now you hear your great friend and benefactor, is no more. Mourn with his venerable relict, sinking under stupendous grief, for him who has slain your enemies, saved your country, “and put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel”: But I am persuaded you will do more; you will, like the great and virtuous Washington, in your measure, increase the dignity and happiness of human nature; you will adorn by your solid, though private virtues, social life, of which you were intended to be the brightest ornaments.

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War-worn veterans! venerable fathers! you must feel the most pungent grief for him who led you in battle and to victory: And having enjoyed the advantages of his glorious examples, both in the peaceful cabinet, and on the hostile plains, you need not be reminded of your special obligations to patriotic virtue, and genuine piety.

He has taught you how to live and how to die.

Painfully tender, on this solemn occasion, must be the feelings of you, my fellow citizens, who lately, at the appearance of danger stepped forward, with an honorable zeal, in your country’s defence. Your great commander in chief, is fallen! I see you feel the shock, and you need not wish to conceal it.

  • Masculine cheeks bedew’d with tears,
  • Become the august occasion;
  • Nor need they blush, should heaving sighs
  • Escape the manly breast, to day.

We have sustained, our country, and the world have sustained no common loss. Nations should mourn. Our nation does mourn. Our venerable and much beloved chief magistrate, the supreme council of the land, our bereaved armies, rising navy, cities, towns and villages, exhibit a widely-extended, endlessly-diversified, and most melancholy scene of deep mourning! All christian and masonic societies with an honest pride and exultation claiming Washington as their brother, are laudably ambitious of making the most emphatical expressions of their fraternal regard and affection. The Cincinnati, after these, in particular, and all other societies in general; and in fine all descriptions of the American people, have variously, and yet as with one voice, testified their high respect, and most cordial affection, for the dear and illustrious object of their common attachment. “Know ye not that there is a great man fallen?” Methinks I hear the honorable city council, and the rest of the worthy magistrates present, the officers of all grades, the reverend clergy, the congregation who statedly meet here, and the respectable residue of this vast mourning concourse, reply—Alas! too well we know it! The most callous heart feels it! Washington is indeed fallen! The awful report is propagated in thunder along the North American coast and reverberates in tremendous accents from the distant hills! The shock of Mount Vernon, trembling from the summit to its affrighted centre, shakes the continent Edition: current; Page: [1414] from New-Hampshire to Georgia! O fatal, and solitary Mount Vernon is an appellation that no longer becomes thee, and may thine appearance correspond with thy situation! No more let cheerful green array thee!*

Thine august inhabitant is fallen! But words are vain! Come more expressive silence, we resign the unutterable theme to thee!

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john smalley on the evils of a weak government fpage="1415" lpage="1446"


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John Smalley (1734–1820). A Yale graduate in 1756, Smalley studied at first with Eleazar Wheelock and after graduation with Joseph Bellamy, both New Light ministers. Ezra Stiles (later president of Yale) was his tutor. Smalley held a pastorate for fifty years at Farmington (New Britain), Connecticut. Though regarded as a mediocre preacher, he was of first importance as a theologian of his generation, and he possessed a keen mind and a vigorous writing style. These traits are displayed in a number of publications, including forty-eight sermons published in two volumes in 1803 and 1814. He was awarded a D.D. by the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1800.

Smalley was at first lukewarm to the cause of independence and came under attack by those who fervently desired it, including the local Committee of the Sons of Liberty. Ezra Stiles attributed Smalley’s stance to theological rather than political reasoning, for Smalley firmly believed that the tradition of passive obedience and nonresistance in civil matters was the true biblical teaching.

The piece reprinted here was preached as the Connecticut election sermon in 1800.

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And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honorable.

Isaiah iii. 4, 5.

When we read and hear such threatening predictions as this; and see our judges as at the first, and our counsellors and governors as at the beginning—equally wise and good; we are ready to bless ourselves, and to say in our hearts, These things shall not come upon us. That the whole of what is here foretold, has not yet come upon us, we have certainly great reason to bless God, and to congratulate one another. But it should be remembered, that neither past mercies, nor present happy circumstances, are any security against evils to come. Surprising changes in this fallen world, have ever been frequent, and are still to be expected. Prosperity and adversity, like sunshine and storms, are wont to follow each other, almost in constant rotation. Communities, as well as individuals, that have been remarkably raised up, are often as wonderfully cast down, in the providence of God, when most exalted. “He blesseth them also,” it is said,* “so that they are multiplied greatly, and suffereth not their cattle to decrease. Again they are minished, and brought low, through oppression, affliction and sorrow.”

Of such vicissitudes, the chosen people threatened in our text, was a striking and an instructive example. This nation had long been favored, in regard to government, as well as religion, far beyond any other then on the earth. From its earliest infancy, it had been under the peculiar guardianship of heaven. “When Israel was a child,” says the most High in Hosea, “then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt: I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms: I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love; and I was to them as they that take off the yoke.”

They had been liberated from powerful oppressors, and cruel task-masters, by the out-stretched arm of the Almighty. They had been Edition: current; Page: [1420] led like a flock, through the Red Sea, and forty years in a most perilous, howling wilderness, by the hand of Moses and Aaron. Under Joshua, their great and beloved general, they had vanquished mighty armies; and had obtained a peaceful settlement as a free and an independent people, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

Here, when they forgat God their saviour, who had done such great things for them, and so many wonderous works before their eyes, he sometimes left them to have no guide, overseer or ruler; and suffered the heathen around them, to make terrible inroads on their borders. Nevertheless, as often as they cried unto the Lord in their distresses, he raised them up judges—valiant, righteous men, to deliver them out of the hand of their enemies, and to administer justice among them. Afterwards, because of their uneasiness, and the hardness of their hearts, God gave them kings; and these, several of them, were very eminent for wisdom and virtue. Nor was their happiness, in this respect, yet at an end; for Isaiah prophesied no later than the reign of Hezekiah; one of the most amiable and best of princes.

But, from the days of their fathers, they had gone away from God’s ordinances; and now, it seems, the measure of their iniquities was almost full. A very awful decree of the holy one of Israel against them is therefore here announced. See the preceding context.

For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem, and from Judah, the stay and the staff; the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water; the mighty man, and the man of war; the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient; the captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator. And I will give children to be their princes, &c.

From my text, thus connected, the doctrine deducible, which will be our present subject, is this:

That to be under a weak government, is one of the greatest calamities, ever sent upon a people.

This, you observe, is here threatened together with drouth and famine in the extreme—a total want of bread and of water; as well as being bereaved of the most eminent men, in every necessary employment: and it is mentioned last, and most enlarged upon, as the consummation of misery.

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But, after explaining the calamity designed, and some of the principal causes of it, I shall attend, more particularly, to the proof and illustration of this doctrine.

There are two senses, in which government is said to be weak: when it is unwise; and when it wants energy. The latter is the more extensive signification of the phrase; and it comprehends the former: this, therefore, is the sense now to be considered. By a weak government will be meant, one that wants energy; whether through the weakness of those by whom it is administered, or by any other means.

To mention, with a little enlargement, some of the most common causes of so great an evil, will not be foreign to the design of this anniversary.

1. That the government of a nation or state has not proper energy, may be the fault of its constitution. A form of government may be such, that, unless the administration of it be arbitrary, it will necessarily be weak.

To give rulers all that power, and reserve to the subjects all that liberty, which is best for the people, is a nice point; very difficult, I imagine, to be exactly hit, by the wisest of men, and men the most disinterested. There is danger of erring, undoubtedly, on either hand; of abridging freedom, as well as of limiting authority, more than is for the greatest general good—of adopting a constitution too despotic, as well as one too feeble. But when it is left to the people at large, what government they will be under, the error most to be apprehended, I believe, is on the side of the inefficiency.

The love of liberty is natural to all mankind; and even to birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things. Of this celebrated virtue, we lost nothing by the fall of our first parents. Every one, however depraved in other respects, wishes to be free—unboundedly free; to have none above him; to be his own subject, his own governor, his own judge. And when, for obtaining the advantages of social union, individuals give up to the community, or to any constituted authorities, a power over their words and actions, their property and lives; they do it with great reluctance, and as sparingly as possible.

To observe the extreme reluctance of some, on such occasions—to see how strenuously they will dispute every inch of power, vested any where, which might possibly be abused, or turned against themselves; Edition: current; Page: [1422] is apt to remind one of the cautious policy of certain ancient pagans, described by Jeremiah, in regard to their gods. Not only would they have gods of their own making, and made of such materials that they must needs be born, because they could not go; but, as wooden gods could fall and might happen to fall upon the makers of them, or on their children, or valuable furniture; for full security, they fastened them with nails and with hammers. “Be not afraid of them,” says the prophet; “for they cannot do evil; neither also is it in them to do good.”

Checks, unquestionably, there ought to be, on every department of a free government: But if such checks be laid upon rulers, that the ruled are under no check at all, harmless, indeed, will such rulers be; but altogether insignificant. These servants of the people, must have more power than the child, and the base, who proudly so call them; unless we would have them miserable gods, or ministers of God to us for good—their scripture titles. They must have authority to punish treasonable lies against themselves, as well as slanders against the meanest of their subjects; otherwise, who will be afraid of them? Or what protection can they afford?

2. That the government of a people is too weak, may be the fault of those betrusted with its administration. It may be owing to their weakness; or to their indolence, or slowness in doing business; or to their excessive lenity; or to their not being of a virtuous character, or not paying a due attention to the strict regularity of their own lives. These particulars, suffer me cursorily to go over.

When the rulers of a land are children; whether in understanding, or in firmness and stability of mind, we are not certainly to expect that the reins of government will be guided with discretion, and held with sufficient force. To govern well, at least in the higher and more difficult offices, considerable theoretic knowledge, some experience, and more than common natural powers, are altogether necessary. And so is that degree of courage and inflexibility, which will enable a man to maintain his post, and to persevere in what appears to him the plain path of duty; unmoved by noisy opposition—undaunted by popular clamor—undismayed by imminent danger.

To support an efficient government, rulers must likewise be men of vigilance and activity. “He that ruleth,” says an apostle,* “with diligence.” Edition: current; Page: [1423] And of Jeroboam it was said,* “Solomon, seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph.” A commonwealth, under the superintendency of indolent men, will resemble the field of the slothful which we read of, that was “all grown over with thorns; the face of it covered with nettles, and the stone wall thereof broken down.” Or, though rulers be not “slothful in business”; they may be so slow in transacting it, and in bringing any thing to a termination, as very much to lower the tone, and defeat the salutary designs, of civil government. When courts of justice are so dilatory in their decisions, and such endless evasions, and reviews, are admitted; that a man had better lose almost any debt or damage, than commence a legal process for a recovery, the protection of law must be lamentably weak.

Excessive lenity, will have a similar effect. Mercy, is indeed an amiable attribute; to pass over a transgression, is said to be the glory of a man; and being ready to forgive, is a duty much inculcated in the word of God: But in one who sustains any place of authority, whether that of a parent, or master, or civil magistrate; lenity and indulgence may be carried farther than is the glory or duty of a man; unless it be his duty and glory to have no government. Should rulers remit crimes, or pass them over without condemnation, when the public good, or righting an injured individual, requires their punishment; merciful they might be, but not as our Father in heaven is merciful.

Liberality to the poor, out of one’s own proper goods, is a capital christian virtue; but of the property of other people, judges and law-givers, may possibly be over liberal. The persons even of the poor, are not to be respected in judgment. Making provision by law, for supporting such as are unable to support themselves, is doubtless very commendable; but why those who happen to be the creditors of the poor; who have helped them much already, and suffered much by their slackness and breach of promise, should be still obliged to lose ten times more for their relief, or for the relief of their families, than others equally able, it is not easy to conceive. And should courts of law, or courts of equity, cancel the debts of men, whenever they plead a present incapacity to pay them, whether such clemency might not too much weaken government, as a security to every one in his Edition: current; Page: [1424] rightful claims, may be a question. Indeed, in any case, to give an insolvent debtor a final discharge from all he owes, without the consent of his creditors, looks like giving him a licence to be an unrighteous man. For can it ever be right, or can any court under heaven make it right, for a man not to pay his promised debts, for value received, when now he has money enough, because once, the payment of them was not in the power of his hands.

Thus to exonerate of a heavy load of old debts, one deeply insolvent, is necessary, it will be said; as without this he could have no courage to commence business anew. And, no doubt, such expected exoneration, will be a mighty encouragement to extravagant adventurers, who have nothing to lose, since, by running the greatest hazards, with the slenderest chance of immense gain, they risk only the property of others. If successful, the profit is their own; if unsuccessful, the loss is their neighbour’s. But if the tendency of being thus merciful, were much better than it is; or the urgency for it far greater; would it not be doing evil that good may come. “He that ruleth over men must be just.”* The laws of truth and righteousness, are not noses of wax; to be bent any way, as will suit present convenience. It is dangerous to break down, or break over, the fixed barrier of eternal justice, on any pretence of temporary necessity.

One way more was hinted, in which those who govern, may weaken government; and that is, by being men of a vicious character; or by not paying a due attention to the strict regularity of their own lives. Indeed, “a wicked ruler” is often strong, and fierce, and active, as “a roaring lion and a ranging bear”; but rarely for the benefit of “the poor people.” He will not be eager to pluck the spoil out of the mouth of the fraudulent villain, or the violent oppressor; unless that he may get it into his own. Nor will authority, in the hands of libertine men, however it may terrify, be much revered. When the makers or judges of laws, are themselves notorious breakers of them, or of the laws of heaven, government will necessarily fall into contempt. It is also to be observed, that advancing to posts of honor, men of loose principles and morals, gives reputation to licentiousness, and stamps it as the current fashion. Their example will encourage evil doers, more than all the punishments they are likely to inflict, will be a Edition: current; Page: [1425] terror to them. “The wicked walk on every side when the vilest men are exalted.”*

But rulers may be far from being the vilest men, they may be very good men; and yet, by an incautious conformity to common practices, supposed to be innocent, they may too much countenance some things which are of very hurtful tendency. Permit me to instance in one particular. “It is not for kings,” we read, “to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink.” And certainly, it is not for the lower classes to drink so much of these as many of them do, if they regard their health, or competence, or peace. I select this instance, because it is directly pertinent to the main subject in hand. Nothing is a greater weakener of government—nothing makes the multitude more heady and high-minded—nothing raises oftener or louder, the cry of liberty and equality—nothing more emboldens and inflames that little member, which boasteth great things, and setteth on fire the whole course of nature—nothing, in a word, makes men more incapable of governing themselves, or of being governed, than strong drink. Now, if rulers drink, though not to drunkenness; not so as quite to “forget the law,” or greatly to “pervert the judgment of any”; if they only drink as much as is very universally customary, in polite circles, on great occasions; though they do not hurt themselves, they may too much sanction that which will hurt their inferiors. That divine injunction, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil,” lies with peculiar weight on civil rulers, as well as religious teachers. They, more than others, are under obligation to lead the multitude, in whatsoever things are sober, wise and good. They, of all men, are bound in duty to abstain from all appearance of any thing, which, improved upon by bungling eager imitators, might grow into a practice pernicious to society. Nor should it be forgotten, that every deviation from rectitude of conduct, lessens the dignity, and lowers the authority of great men. “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor: so doth a little folly, him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor.”§ But,

3. That weakness of government which is a calamity to any people, Edition: current; Page: [1426] is often principally the fault of the people themselves. It may be owing to their negligence, or to their caprice and folly, in the choice of their rulers; or it may be owing to their ill-treatment of them when chosen. A government most excellent in its constitution, and most wise, just and firm, in its administration, may be enervated, or rendered inadequate, by the ungovernableness of the people: By their revilings and slanders—their haughtiness and insolence—their factions and tumults. David once said, “I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too hard for me.”*

Nor must it be omitted, that, besides the immediate natural causes of a weak government, the irreligion, or general wickedness of a people, may be its procuring cause, as a judgment of heaven. “The most High ruleth in the” nations of men; “and giveth” the dominion over them, “to whomsoever he will.” “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.” When the ways of a people please the Lord—when they fear him, and work righteousness; among other blessings, he gives them good governors, under whose able and equitable administration, they lead quiet and peaceable lives. On the contrary, when they forget him, neglect his worship, and disregard his word; among other modes of punishment, he takes away their wise and faithful magistrates, and gives them weak or wicked ones in their stead; or leaves them to trample all authority under foot. This was the cause of the calamities threatened in our text and context. See the eighth verse, which concludes the paragraph. “For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen; because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory.”

Let us now attend, as was proposed, to the proof and illustration of the doctrine laid down: That, of all the calamities ever sent upon a people, being under a weak government, is one of the most deplorable.

It is said,§ “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child.” It is Edition: current; Page: [1427] also asked,* “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” And if we consider the matter, it may easily be seen, that the people of all characters, and not merely the righteous among them, must be in a very wretched condition, should government be overturned, or have no coercive force.

First; an exposedness to all manner of mutual injuries, without redress, is one obvious evil thence arising. The people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour.

“Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad,” is an observation of the royal preacher. And many are the accounts in history, of oppression’s having had this effect on a multitude of men, the wise among the foolish. How often have whole nations raved and raged, like the fiercest of animals, under the operation of the hydrophobia, at only a distant apprension of this terrible evil?

I am sensible, it is the dread of oppression from government, and not of being oppressed one by another, through the want or weakness of it, that usually occasions this rage, and these ravings. The people are ten times more apt to be afraid of having heavy burdens and grievous restraints laid upon them, by the best men in power, than of any thing they might be in danger of suffering from their equals, however wicked, and however unrestrained. But what can be the reason of this? Is it because there is not really as much mischief to be feared, from individual, as from public oppression? From the oppressions of the many, as of the few? From the unrighteousness of millions, let loose, as from that of one man, or a small number of men?

This, certainly, is not the case; this cannot be the reason. When there is no law, and every one does what he thinks fit, without fear of punishment, the people, I believe, have ever been, and are ever likely to be, much more unhappy than even under a very despotic and oppressive government.

What then is the reason? Why are the people, whose voice is said to be the voice of God, so much more ready to sound and take an alarm, when threatened with the latter, than with the former of these evils? Why are they so loud and tumultuous, when their liberties are Edition: current; Page: [1428] thought to be in any danger; and so quiet and easy, when government is rudely attacked, and ready to be overthrown? Why is the shock of terror so much greater and more universal, at the remotest prospect of tyranny, than at the nearest, and most evident approximation to total anarchy? There may be several reasons.

One, probably, is; when the people are oppressed by each other, their sufferings are separately felt: Whereas, oppression from the higher powers falls upon all in a body. In the former case, every one bears his own different burdens; and divided complaints, though bitter, make but a confused and feeble murmur: in the latter case, all feel or fear the same; all voices, therefore, are united in one tremendous cry.

Another reason may be; under oppression from government, often no other way of relief is seen, than popular combinations and insurrections; but when injuries are done us by individuals, because there is no government to restrain them, a remedy is always near and obvious. If every one is oppressed, every one can be an oppressor. If a man’s neighbours all bite and devour him, he can bite and devour all his neighbours. Hence, a dissolution of government, instead of being universally deprecated, appears to many, “A consummation devoutly to be wished.”

But there is another cause of the wonderful phenomenon I am accounting for, more influential perhaps with the most, than both the forementioned. It is owing to charity. A kind of charity, not the exclusive glory of modern times; but entirely peculiar to fallen creatures. A kind of charity, which covers a multitude of our own sins, from our own sight. A kind of charity which always begins, and ends, at home; though often extensive in its circuits. From this boasted charity, we are ever inclined to hope all things, and believe all things, in favour of any number, or class, or order of beings, in which we ourselves are included. Thus men, naturally think of mankind, more highly than they ought to think. Frenchmen, of the French: Britons, of the British: Americans, of the people of America: Those of every state and town, of their own state’s men and town’s men; and men of every calling, of their brethren of the same occupation, collectively considered. In like manner, the common people, think the common people exceedingly honest, harmless, and virtuous; while of those in power, though of their own choosing, and just chosen Edition: current; Page: [1429] out of all the people, they have not near so favorable an opinion. That the people should have too much liberty, therefore, they are not at all afraid: that rulers will not have checks enough upon them, is all their fear.

This beam, of selfish liberality of sentiment, it may be impossible for us to cast wholly out of our eye: But that, round the edges of it, we may get some glimpse of real human nature; I know of no better way than to look upon mankind one by one; or in circles not including ourselves. Let us then think of other nations; other states; other towns, and neighbourhoods; or of particular persons among our nearest neighbours. In this separate view, let us search and look; let us impartially examine characters. Where do we find a great predominance of the innocent inoffensive people? Where do we find a nation, or state, or town, or society, except our own, so very virtuous? Where do we find many individuals, besides ourselves, so just and true, temperate and chaste, meek and merciful; so free from coveteousness, pride, envy, revenge, and every unfriendly passion, that we could live safely among them, were they at full liberty from all the restraints of law and government?

Indeed, how great an alteration this would make, in the apparent characters of most men, it is difficult to conceive, without the trial. A very partial trial of it, for a short time, some of us have once seen; when it was made lawful to discharge pecuniary obligations, at the rate of a tenth, a twentieth, and even a fiftieth, of the real value justly due. We then had a convincing evidence, that the external justice of our common honest people, is owing to the expected compulsion of civil law, much more than to uprightness of heart, or feelings of conscience, or any dread of a higher tribunal. From this specimen, and from the sacred story of the behaviour of the men of Benjamin, relative to the Levite from mount Ephraim, when “there was no king in Israel; and every one did that which was right in his own eyes”; we may have some faint idea of the horrid scenes of unrighteousness, lewdness and cruelty, that would every where be acted, were it not for the fear of temporal punishment. From all that we have read of the destruction of mankind by one another, when ever they are at liberty; and from recent indisputable information of the shocking state of things, where government has been overturned; we may well believe that the scripture accounts of the depravity of men, are no Edition: current; Page: [1430] exaggeration. Not even the following: “Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known.”*

But if this be a true portrait of fallen men, when left to themselves, how much are we indebted to the restraint laid upon them, for the little peace we enjoy? And may we not well be convinced, that all the terror of the civil sword, in the most faithful and skilful hands, will not be more than enough to restrain from iniquity, such a race of beings, so that they may dwell together, not in unity, as brethren, but with any tolerable safety? Especially if, as is added to finish the above picture, “There is no fear of God before their eyes”? And that this last trait, is still a part of the character of many, is abundantly evident, both from their avowed principles and open practices. Now this being the case, that while the hearts of men are fully set in them to do evil, they have no fear of the God of heaven to restrain them; were it not for the dread of gods on earth, our civil rulers, what security should we have, for our names, or property, or lives? If we had no other evil to apprehend, from weakness of government, than only this, of lying open to all manner of mutual oppressions, slander, frauds and violences; it would, even then, be evidently one of the greatest calamities that could befal a people.

But a second evil, some what distinct, and worthy of some notice, is suggested in our text: No one in a subordinate station would keep his proper place, or treat his superiors with suitable respect. The child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honorable.

Solomon says, “There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error that proceedeth from the ruler: Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich in low place. I have seen servants riding upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.” When authority fails, or is obstructed, at the fountain head, its remotest streams must, in a little time, run low. If parents will not obey magistrates, children will be disobedient to parents; if masters refuse subjection to Edition: current; Page: [1431] the higher powers, their servants and apprentices will soon pay as little regard to their injunctions. Thus this evil proceedeth from the ruler; or from his not being able to rule. And a serious evil it certainly is. By superiors, in every degree, it will soon be very sensibly felt. They will have none to fear them, none to honor them, none over whom they can have any command. Inferiors, of the very lowest grade, may exult, for a while, in such æras of freedom; and think them glorious times. But even to these—to the child and the base, this turning of things upside down, generally proves fatal in the end. Being under no control, they spend their time in idleness; waste their substance, if they have any, in riotous living; have recourse to pilfering, gambling, and every hazardous expedient, to support their extravagances, and by various foolish and hurtful practices, soon plunge themselves into irrecoverable wretchedness and ruin.

There is yet a third capital evil, arising from too weak a government, which, though not mentioned in our text, should be briefly noticed, when treating of this subject at large. A community in such a situation, will be able to make little defence against a foreign enemy. Like the people of Laish, who had no magistrate in the land to put them to shame in any thing; they will be an easy prey to any handful of enterprising invaders. No resources can be drawn forth—no navies furnished—no armies raised and supplied—no fortifications erected and garrisoned, without energy in government. What Solomon says of a man that has no rule over his own spirit, holds equally true of an ungoverned nation: it “is as a city that is broken down, and without walls.”

The doctrine, I conceive, needs no farther illustration or proof. It only remains, that I endeavor to point out some useful inferences from it, applicable to our own times, and to the present occasion.

1. The holy scriptures may hence be vindicated, in their being so much on the side of government; and no more favorable to the insurrection of inferiors.

On these topics, it must be acknowledged, the spirit of the gospel, as well as of the old testament, is somewhat different from the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience, among whom we have all had our conversation. Our Saviour “went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil”; but under the political oppressions of the Jews, his countrymen, he seemed not much to Edition: current; Page: [1432] sympathize with them. When it hurt their consciences to pay tribute to a foreign power, and they asked him whether it were lawful; his answer was, “Render to Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s.” He constantly preached peace, meekness, humility and submission. His apostles in like manner, taught children to obey and honor their parents: and servants to be “subject to their own masters, with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.” And, instead of animating their numerous proselytes, at Crete, at Rome, and all over the world, to rise in arms against these rulers of the earth who were their unrighteous and unmerciful persecutors; they would have them “put in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates”:* they exhorted them to “submit themselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake”; and told them, “Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

At this distance of time, and after so many revolutions, such passages as these may seem hard sayings, to some good soldiers, even of Jesus Christ. No wonder that the inculcators of so much poverty of spirit, should be rejected with scorn, and treated with scurrility, in this “age of reason.” We are not to wonder, were there no other cause, that infidelity should exceedingly increase, in these times of “illumination.”

To the spiritually minded Christian, however, it will readily occur, in favour of the author and finisher of our faith, and his first ministers, that the great object they had in view, was to save the souls of men; and that, teaching them to be meek and lowly in heart, poor in spirit, and contented in whatsoever state they were, was better adapted to this design; than filling the heads of inferiors with exalted notions of the equal “rights of man”; inflaming their hearts with pride and angry passions; and throwing families into envying and strife, and nations into the convulsions of civil war; till every one can be as free as the freest, and as high as the highest.

But, leaving things eternal out of the question; according to the subject to which we have now been attending, if the preachers and Edition: current; Page: [1433] penmen of the New-Testament had aimed only to promote the temporal happiness, of only the lower classes of mankind, they would have done wisely in writing and preaching, on the duties of subordination, exactly as they did. Never can there be peace on earth, or any safety among men, while children are allowed to rise up against their parents, servants against their masters, and subjects against their civil rulers, whenever they think differently from them, or dislike their government. Thus to make the child, the governor of his governors, and the base, the judge of his judges, is the certain way to endless confusion, in all human societies.

2. If the doctrine insisted on be true, it follows, that a ready submission to all those burdens which are necessary for the support of good government, and for national defence, is the wisdom, as well as duty of any people.

The apostle to the Romans, having said, “The powers that be are ordained of God”; having observed that the benevolent end of their ordination was the good of the people; and, on these grounds, having enjoined subjection to them, he adds; “For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.”

Public expenses are apt to appear to many, excessively high: but, perhaps, they do not well consider the real occasion there is for great expenditures, in a nation or state of any magnitude.

In order to the support of good government, many rulers, of high and low degree, are absolutely necessary. And it is necessary that those who occupy the higher offices, should be men of superior knowledge, and uncommon natural abilities: such knowledge as is not easily acquired, and such abilities as might procure them a plentiful income in other occupations. If the bramble, or the shrub oak, were adequate to rule over the trees, a cheap government might be expected; but if the vine, the fig-tree, and the olive-tree, must be promoted; we are not to think that these will leave their rich fruits; their sweetness, and fatness, without a suitable compensation. Besides, rulers of high rank, must be at no inconsiderable expense, to support the proper dignity of their stations. It is also to be taken into the account, that the duties of those who rule well, and attend continually upon this very thing, are not only exceedingly laborious, but that some parts of the essential services they have to render must be very disagreeable; Edition: current; Page: [1434] if they have any compassionate sensibility. The execution of deserved vengeance, is said to be God’s strange work; as being, in itself, most opposite to one whose nature is love, and who delighteth in mercy. And, doubtless, that punishment of evil doers, for which earthly rulers are appointed, and which the public good requires, must be really painful to the feelings of humanity; more painful, in many cases, than the amputation of limbs, and other high operations in surgery, for which, on that account, as well as because of the superior skill and great care requisite, an ample fee to the operator is thought reasonable. Moreover; those who stand in elevated stations, are the marks of obloquy, and exposed to many dangers, much more than men on the level ground of private life. All these things well weighed, the equitable reward of governors, and the necessary cost of supporting good government, must be no inconsiderable burden on the people.

In order to national defence, against hostilities from abroad, still heavier expenses are often indispensible. In perilous times, there must be armies and fleets, forts and garrisons. At the first out set, more especially, when all these things are to be new-created, to a people unused to such vast expenditures, they will naturally appear enormous; and very easily may a popular clamor be raised against them. It is possible, indeed, that more may be laid out in these ways, many times, than the public exigences require; but of this, few of the complainers are competent to judge. A nation that has an extended coast, and an extensive commerce to defend, had better be at immense charges for the security of these, than lie open to those spoliations and invasions, to which, without arming, when all the world is at war, they might inevitably be exposed.

To provide both for the internal and external safety of a numerous people, the burdens laid upon them must often be heavy. These are evils to be lamented; but in the present state of mankind, they are necessary for the prevention of far greater evils; and should therefore be submitted to, without murmuring.

3. The preceding observations may suggest to us, some peculiar advantages of a republican form of government.*

Under every form, there must be orders and degrees; some must Edition: current; Page: [1435] bear rule, and others be subject to tribute. Under every form, there will be duties, imposts, excises, and perhaps direct taxation. All forms of government, however, are not equal. Much advantage hath the republican, many ways.

One advantage is, that the people may always have good rulers, unless it be their own fault. Under a monarchy, or an aristocracy, let the body of the people be ever so virtuous, and ever so vigilant, they may have children for their princes, and babes to rule over them. When power is hereditary, in kings or nobles, not only is there a risk of having the highest seats of government filled by minors; but, if this should not happen, the hazard is great, that those who inherit the first offices of government, will frequently be men of not much knowledge, or of not much virtue. But in elective governments, where the people at large are the electors, and especially where the elections are frequent, they may always have wise and faithful men in all places of authority; if such are to be found, and if such they choose.

It may next be observed; that in republican governments, there is the least occasion for illegal associations, or popular tumults, to obtain a redress of grievances. If there be any mal-administration, or any fault in the constitution, a remedy is provided, without disturbing the public peace.

Another advantage must not be forgotten, which is very great: under this free form of government, the interests of rulers and subjects are so blended—so the same, that the former cannot oppress the latter, without equally oppressing themselves. In an absolute monarchy, the king; and in an aristocracy, the nobles, may “bind heavy burdens, and lay them on men’s shoulders,” without being obliged to “touch them themselves with one of their fingers”: but in democracies, the highest magistrates are subject to the same laws, the same duties, the same taxes, which they impose upon others. At least, those who this year bear rule, the next election may be under law, under tribute. This is a great security against their decreeing unrighteous decrees, and writing grievous things.

Lastly; representative rulers feel themselves so dependent on the people, for their continuance in office, that they are not likely to grow haughty and unreasonably over-bearing, as those naturally will, who have no such dependence.

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These are some of the peculiar advantages of a republican government. But then, it is to be well remembered, that the best things may become the worst for us, by being abused. To render democratic governments stable and happy, it is highly necessary that the people should be wise, virtuous, peaceable, and easily governed. For want of these requisites, republics have often been, like “man that is born of a woman, of few days, and full of trouble.”

4. In the more particular application of our subject, we are naturally led to a view and conviction, of our own mercies, and privileges, and prospects, and duties.

That the past mercies of heaven towards this country, have been singularly great, every pious observer will be ready devoutly to acknowledge. I have reference, chiefly, to political mercies; or those which relate to civil liberty and government. Hardly another instance can be found, I believe, in all history, of a people’s enjoying both these blessings jointly, in so high a degree, for so great a length of time, as they have been enjoyed by several of these united states; and by this state, in particular. The people of Connecticut, from the beginning, have invariably chosen their chief magistrates, and general assembly; and they have had a succession of good governors far beyond the common lot of mankind. Our “officers have been peace, and our exactors righteousness,” with as few exceptions, perhaps, as ever were known in any part of the world.

Or, if we confine the retrospect, within the compass of the last five and twenty years; and extend it to the whole union, how wonderful have been the salvations granted us! In this period, we have passed through the Red Sea of a revolutionary war; in which our then friends and coadjutors, assaying to follow us, as most who ever attempted it before us, have been drowned. Here, quite contrary to what usually happens, on such occasions, we had guides eminent for prudence, stability, coolness, and unconquerable perseverance. And one, super-eminent for all those; by the integrity of whose heart, and the skilfulness of whose hands, we were led like a flock, in safety, far surpassing all rational expectation. We have also passed, afterwards, thro the howling wilderness of an almost national anarchy: where were pits, and scorpions, and fiery flying serpents. Here again, our great men, with the greatest of all at their head, in a general convention, formed and recommended our present admirable constitution. Edition: current; Page: [1437] And our wisest counsellors and most eloquent orators, in every state, straining every nerve, procured its adoption; whereby we were saved, when on the brink of dissolution. That such men were raised up, and put forward, in these times of need; and their way made prosperous; was certainly “the Lord’s doing, and ought to be marvellous in our eyes.” In either of these perils, “it was of the Lord’s mercies that we were not consumed.”

And as past mercies, so our present privileges, are singular, and such as deserve a very grateful acknowledgment. While many other nations are suffering the ravages of a most furious war, still likely to be carried on with redoubled rage; we enjoy the inestimable blessings of peace. While most other nations are under the dominion of hereditary kings and nobles, such as they happen to be born and educated, whether virtuous or vicious, wise men or fools; we have rulers from the highest to the lowest, of our own election. While one other nation, great and highly civilized, after swimming in seas of blood for eight years, and after nearly as many revolutions, in a violent contest for liberty and equality, has at last, nothing more of either than the empty name, we possess the reality of both, as far as is consistent with any order or safety.

Our national expenses are necessarily great: but the burden of them is laid, as much as possible, on those most able to bear it; among whom, the imposers, being of the richer class, have taken a large proportion on themselves. In the nation, and in this state, the policy of government, certainly, is not to “grind the face of the poor.” The mildness and gentleness of our administration, it appears to me, is generally very great; and, in regard to its wisdom and firmness, considering the times, I think it deserving of much applause. Respecting rulers, certainly our condition, hitherto, is far different from that described and threatened in our text.

Such have been our mercies; such are our privileges. What then are our prospects? Not altogether fair and promising, after all. As in the blessings of heaven, and the abuse of these blessings, there is a striking resemblance between us, and the land of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, at the time of this prophecy, to which we have been attending; so, in the sequel, it is possible there may be a similitude. Our mountain is not yet so strong, that we have reason, from any quarter, to say in our prosperity, we shall never be moved.

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Some may flatter themselves, that, although other republics have frequently been tumultuous, and of short continuance; ours will be peaceful and permanent, because of the greater knowledge and virtue of the people.

It is true, in this part of the union at least, “We know that we all have knowledge.” But, I doubt, we have more of the “knowledge which puffeth up,” than of that knowledge which promises “stability of times.” It is true, we have the light of the gospel; and were we disposed to be guided by this light, we need not fear the fate of ancient republics, that were bewildered in pagan darkness. But, in matters relative to government and subordination; too many choose to take their instructions from heathen philosophy, rather than from the oracles of God. And as the knowledge, so the virtue, of even this happy country, exceedingly wants to be Christianized. It is true, our “charity aboundeth”: but I am afraid we have not much of that charity which is “the bond of perfectness, or the bond of peace.”

Perhaps some good people are ready to think, we may safely “trust in God; who hath delivered, and doth deliver, that he will yet deliver us.” And had we rendered according to the benefits done us, indeed, we might thus securely trust. But has this been the case? On the contrary, have we not sinned more and more, since the almost miraculous deliverances granted us? Has not the worship of God been neglected; his day and name been prophaned, his laws transgressed, and his gospel despised and rejected, of late years, more than ever? Have not infidelity, and all manner of loose principles, and immoral practices, abounded in all parts of the land, since the revolution, and our happy independence, more than at any former period? Shall we then “lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? no evil can come upon us”?* Or shall we think, “Because we are innocent, surely his anger shall turn from us”? His ancient covenant people thus leaned, and thus said, in times of their greatest degeneracy; but what were the answers of God to them? “You only have I known, of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities.” And, “shall I not visit for these things? shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?”

When we read such solemn divine admonitions as these, and consider Edition: current; Page: [1439] our own ways and doings, can we confidently expect the continued smiles and protection of the holy governor of the world? Instead of this, may not our flesh well tremble for fear of him? Have we not reason to be afraid of his avenging judgments?

And has he not already begun to testify his righteous displeasure against us, in some terrible instances? For several years past, our capital towns and cities have been sorely visited with a wasting pestilence; little, if at all known before, in these parts. And now, very lately, a most awful breach has been made upon us; and of the very same kind threatened in our context to Jerusalem and Judah. For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, hath taken away from America, the stay and the staff: the mighty man, and the man of war. The judge, and the prudent, and the ancient: The captain of all our armies, and our most honorable man. All these, in one; by a sudden and surprising stroke, hath the Lord taken away. The man who “fought for us, and adventured his life for, and delivered us.” The man who gave system to our distracted affairs; united our broken confederacy; and long guided our difficult course, between the whirlpools of European wars. The man, but for whom, very possibly, we should now have been wretched, conquered, rebel colonies; instead of triumphant, free, independent states; and but for whom, afterwards, we might have been as a roap of sand, instead of a strong united nation: The man to whom we are thus indebted—on whom we were thus dependent, is no more.

What farther public calamities the sudden decease of this great Saviour of his country may portend, God only knows. We have reason to apprehend, that as he was ever prosperous in life, so his death, for him, was favorably timed; that he was taken out of the way of evils to come; great evils coming on a land most dear to him; which he could only have seen, to his inexpressible sorrow of heart, without being able to prevent. This lesson, however, we are plainly and most impressively taught, by a providence which has clothed a continent in mourning; that Gods on earth must die like men.* That “no man hath power over the spirit, to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death; and there is no discharge in that war.” We have many great and good men, yet spared to us; nor are we without one, at the head of our national government, who, I presume, has the high Edition: current; Page: [1440] veneration of the best judges, and their cordial prayers that he may long live; and long fill the important station which he now possesses. But his breath is in his nostrils; and so is the breath of every other man, most accounted of; in the nation, or in the state. Nor is natural death, the only way whereby our remaining firm pillars, may be removed.

And if we consider the spirit that now worketh, well may we be apprehensive of unhappy changes; and of all the evils threatened in our text. Some of these, we already experience. Though God hath not given children to be our princes, nor many bad men, we hope, to rule over us; yet the people are oppressed one by another, in a degree, I believe, beyond what has been usual heretofore. And certainly it is a remarkable day, for the child’s behaving himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honorable. Nor is this to be wondered at. Of such scenes as we have lately passed through, it is the natural consequence. In revolutionary times, all expressions of respect are wont to be laid aside, or the application of them reversed. The great lessons inculcated on youth, instead of modesty, dutifulness and subordination; are boldness, self-sufficiency, and self-importance. Children, too young to read the bible, or to be taught their catechism, are mounted on the stage, to act the orator, the patriot and politician: while the parents, the aged and the wise, sit or stand around in low place, wonder and applaud. Brutus and Cassius (not Jesus nor Paul, Peter nor John), are the great models and instructors, of the rising generation of Christians. Such things as these, we have seen; and the effects of them, we still sadly feel. Habits of subordination, always painful to human pride; when once effaced, or much weakened, are not easily restored. On the other hand, habits of haughtiness and disobedience, always congenial to the human heart; when once imbibed, naturally increase to more ungovernableness. One point of freedom gained, another is struggled for with the greater ardor. Licentiousness, like the grave, never says, “It is enough.”

In this state, though not near so free as some, great liberties are enjoyed. We have liberty to do every thing that we ought; and a great many things that we ought not. In matters of religion, our liberties are almost unbounded. We may sell, buy and read, what books we please: the best, or the most atheistical and blasphemous. We may worship what god we choose: a just God, or one who has no justice Edition: current; Page: [1441] for men to fear. Every creature, has equal liberty to preach the gospel: and to preach what gospel he thinks proper. Those who persuade men by the terrors of the Lord, to stand in awe, and not sin; and those who embolden men in all manner of iniquity, by assurances of no wrath to come, have equal encouragement. Any people may make the firmest legal contract for the support of what minister they will; and any number, or all of them, may break it when they will. In civil matters, our liberty is a little more circumscribed; yet, in these, we have a good deal of elbow-room, to do wrong, as well as right. We may honor all men, or defame the most dignified and worthy characters. We may speak the truth, or assert and propagate falsehoods. Men may fulfil their promises, or not fulfil them; pay their debts, or never pay them, without any restraint, or much danger of compulsion. All these liberties, and a thousand others, if not explicitly by law allowed; are taken, very freely by many, in their worst latitude; and taken with impunity, in a multitude of instances.

Yet, with all this, numbers among ourselves, and much greater numbers in the freer states, it is said, are not satisfied; but are striving, by calumnies, and by intrigues, for new revolutions still further to weaken government. That some men might wish to have their own hands and tongues at greater liberty, provided their neighbours and enemies could be kept fast bound, may easily be conceived: but how any man, on the least sober reflection, should be willing that all others should be under less restraint than they now are, appears almost inconceivable. One would have thought, that the