Proclamation – Lord’s Day – 1782

John Dickinson (1732-1808) was a lawyer, statesman, and soldier during the War for Independence. He wrote, among many other pieces, the Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania which were highly praised both in the colonies and abroad. Although he was a delegate to Continental Congress, he absented himself from the vote to adopt on the grounds of wishing to have more secure footing before igniting war with Briton. This, however, did do keep Dickinson from fully supporting the measure upon its adoption and throwing all his energies toward securing the liberty of America.

He was held in an extremely high regard by the other notable men of the time, with Dr. Benjamin Rush remarking that, “Few men wrote, spoke and acted more for their country from the year 1764 to the establishment of the federal government than Mr. Dickinson.”

The following is a prayer proclamation John Dickinson issued while he was the president of Pennsylvania in 1782.

By the President and Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,

A Proclamation.

As the best and greatest of Beings commanded mankind into existence with a capacity for happiness, bestowing upon them understanding and many “good gifts”; so when they, by an abuse of the blessings thus intrusted, had involved themselves in guilt and misery, his compassion was extended towards them, and in “his tender mercies,” not only “seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night,” were continued unto them, but “the eternal purposes’ were revealed, and the heavenly treasuries opened, to restore the human race to the transcendent privilege from which by transgression they were fallen: And in this “marvelous work,” the laws of righteousness have been with such infinite wisdom adjusted, and united to the obligation of nature, that while they jointly tended to promote the felicity of men in a future state, they evidently cooperate to advance their welfare in the present, and to offend against the sanctions of revelation, of the dictates of reason and conscience, is suredly to betray the joys of this life, as well as those of another.

Wherefore, as we are entirely persuaded that just impressions of the deity are the great supports of morality, And As the experience of ages demonstrates, that regularity of manners is essential to the tranquility and prosperity of societies, And the assistance of the Almighty, on which we rely, to establish the inestimable blessings our afflicted country is contending for, cannot be expected without an observance of his holy laws, We esteem it our principal and indispensable duty to endeavor, as much as we can, that a sense of these interesting truths may prevail in the hearts and appear in the lives of the inhabitants of this state; And Therefore have thought proper to issue this Proclamation, sincerely desiring that they seriously meditating on the many signal and unmerited benefits of public and private import conferred upon them, the affecting invitations and munificent promises of divine goodness, and the “terrors set in array” against disobedient, may be urged to exert themselves in avoiding, discountenancing, and suppressing all vice, profaneness and immorality, and feeling a due gratitude, love,and veneration for their most gracious, all-wise , and omnipotent Benefactor, Sovereign, and Judge, and correspondent temper of resignation to the dispensations of his Supreme Government, may become a people “trusting in him, in whom they live and move and doing good.”

And to the intent that these desirable ends may be forwarded, all persons are herby fervently exhorted, to observe the Lord’s Day, commonly called Sunday, and thereon constantly to attend the worship of God, as a service pleasing to him who is, “a hearer of prayer,” and condescends to “inhabit the praises of his people,” and profitable to themselves; a neglect of which duty has, in multitude of instances, been the beginning of a deviation into the ways of presumption, that at length have led into the deepest distresses and severest sorrows:

And As the education of youth is of so much moment to themselves and to the commonwealth, which cannot flourish unless that important point be diligently regarded, the sentiments, dispositions, and habits begin then generally formed that pervade the rest of their lives, all parents, guardians, masters, and tutors are herby strenuously called upon, to discharge the high trust committed to them, and for which they must account, by a faithful attention; that those under their care may be nurtured in piety, filial reverence, submission to superiors in age or station, modesty, sincerity, benevolence, temperance, industry, consistency of behavior, and frugality regulated by an humble reliance on Providence, and a kind respect for others; that their inexperienced minds may be by wholesome instructions fully convinced, that whatever employment they are designed for, virtue will be a chief promoter of success, and irregularity of conduct the greatest obstacle to it; that the intellectual faculties are aided by moral improvements, but weakened by illicit courses; and in brief, that Religion is the fiend of their peace,health and happiness; and that to displease their Maker, or trespass against their neighbor, is inevitably to inure themselves.

And we expect and hereby require, that all well disposed persons, and especially those in places of authority, will by their conversation and demeanor encourage and promote piety and virtue, and to their utmost contribute to the rendering these qualities truly laudable and honorable, and the contrary practices justly shameful and contemptible; that thus the influence of good men, and the dignity of the laws, may be combined in repressing the follies and insolencies of scorners and profligates, in directing the weak and thoughtless, and in preserving them from the pernicious contagion of evil examples; And for further promoting such reformation, it is hereby enjoined, that all magistrates, and others whom it may concern, be very vigilant and exact in discovering, prosecuting, and punishing all persons who shall be guilty of profanation of the Lord’s Day, commonly called Sunday, blasphemy, profane swearing or cursing, drunkenness, lewdness, or other dissolute or immoral practices; that they suppress all gaming houses, and other disorderly houses, that they put in execution the act of General Assembly, entitled, “An Act for the suppression of Vice and Immorality,” and all other laws now in force for the punishing and suppressing any vice, profaneness or immorality: And for the more effectual proceeding herein, all Judges and Justice, having cognizance in the premises, are directed to give strict charges at their respective Courts and Sessions, for the due prosecution and punishment of all who shall presume to offend in any of the kinds aforesaid; and also of all such as, contrary to their duty, shall be remiss or negligent in putting the laws in execution: And that they do at their respective Courts and Sessions cause this Proclamation to be publicly read, immediately before the charge is given: And every Minister of the Gospel is requested strongly to inculcate in the respective congregations where they officiate, a love of piety and virtue, and an abhorrence of vice, profaneness, and immorality.

Given in council, under the hand of the President, and the Seal of the State, at Philadelphia, this twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty two.

Attest. T. Matlack, Secretary.

John Dickinson.

God Save the Commonwealth.

Proclamation – Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer – 1799

John Adams (1735-1826) Adams was an attorney, diplomat, and statesman; he graduated from Harvard (1755); leader in the opposition to the Stamp Act (1765); delegate to the Continental Congress (1774-77) where he signed the Declaration of Independence (1776); appointed Chief Justice of Superior Court of Massachusetts (1775); delegate to the Massachusetts constitutional convention (1779-80) and wrote most of the first draft of the Massachusetts Constitution; foreign ambassador to Holland (1782); signed the peace treaty which ended the American Revolution (1783); foreign ambassador to Great Britain (1785-88); served two terms as Vice-President under President George Washington (1789-97); second President of the United States (1797-1801); he and his one time political nemesis- turned-close-friend Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; Adams was titled by fellow signer of the Declaration Richard Stockton as the “Atlas of American Independence.”

This is the text of a national day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer proclamation issued by President John Adams. This proclamation was issued on March 6, 1799 declaring April 25, 1799 the day of fasting for the nation. See a sermon preached by Rev. Manneseh Cutler on the 1799 fast day here.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration, nor any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages, than that a deep sense and a due acknowledgment of the governing providence of a Supreme Being and of the accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of hearts and righteous distributor of rewards and punishments are conducive equally to the happiness and rectitude of individuals and to the well-being of communities; as it is also most reasonable in itself that men who are made capable of social acts and relations, who owe their improvements to the social state, and who derive their enjoyments from it, should, as a society, make their acknowledgments of dependence and obligation to Him who hath endowed them with these capacities and elevated them in the scale of existence by these distinctions; as it is likewise a plain dictate of duty and a strong sentiment of nature that in circumstances of great urgency and seasons of imminent danger earnest and particular supplications should be made to Him who is able to defend or to destroy; as, moreover, the most precious interests of the people of the United States are still held in jeopardy by the hostile designs and insidious acts of a foreign nation, as well as by the dissemination among them of those principles, subversive of the foundations of all religious, moral, and social obligations, that have produced incalculable mischief and misery in other countries; and as, in fine, the observance of special seasons for public religious solemnities is happily calculated to avert the evils which we ought to deprecate and to excite to the performance of the duties which we ought to discharge by calling and fixing the attention of the people at large to the momentous truths already recited, by affording opportunity to teach and inculcate them by animating devotion and giving to it the character of a national act:

For these reasons I have thought proper to recommend, and I do hereby recommend accordingly, that Thursday, the Twenty-fifth day of April next, be observed throughout the United States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens on that day abstain as far as may be from their secular occupations, devote the time to the sacred duties of religion in public and in private; that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the Most High God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions in time to come; that He would interpose to arrest the progress of that impiety and licentiousness in principle and practice so offensive to Himself and so ruinous to mankind; that He would make us deeply sensible that “righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people;” that He would turn us from our transgressions and turn His displeasure from us; that He would withhold us from unreasonable discontent, from disunion, faction, sedition, and insurrection; that He would preserve our country from the desolating sword; that He would save our cities and towns from a repetition of those awful pestilential visitations under which they have lately suffered so severely, and that the health of our inhabitants generally may be precious in His sight; that He would favor us with fruitful seasons and so bless the labors of the husbandman as that there may be food in abundance for man and beast; that He would prosper our commerce, manufactures, and fisheries, and give success to the people in all their lawful industry and enterprise; that He would smile on our colleges, academies, schools, and seminaries of learning, and make them nurseries of sound science, morals, and religion; that He would bless all magistrates, from the highest to the lowest, give them the true spirit of their station, make them a terror to evil doers and a praise to them that do well; that He would preside over the councils of the nation at this critical period, enlighten them to a just discernment of the public interest, and save them from mistake, division, and discord; that He would make succeed our preparations for defense and bless our armaments by land and by sea; that He would put an end to the effusion of human blood and the accumulation of human misery among the contending nations of the earth by disposing them to justice, to equity, to benevolence, and to peace; and that he would extend the blessings of knowledge, of true liberty. and of pure and undefiled religion throughout the world.

And I do, also, recommend that with these acts of humiliation, penitence, and prayer, fervent thanksgiving to the Author of all good be united for the countless favors which He is still continuing to the people of the United States, and which render their condition as a nation eminently happy when compared with the lot of others.

Given, under my hand and the seal of the United States of America, at the city of Philadelphia, this sixth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety nine, and of the Independence of the said States the twenty-third.

By the President, John Adams.

Timothy Pickering, Secretary of State.

* Originally Posted: September 9, 2017

Oration – July 4th – 1810, Massachusetts







“Justum et tenacem propositi virum
Non ivium ardor prava jubentium
Non vultus instantis tyranny
Mente quatit solida.”


THE Selectmen of Newburyport, in behalf of their fellow-citizens, present their thanks to SAMUEL L. KNAPP, Esq. for the excellent Oration delivered by him this day, in commemoration of American Independence, and request a Copy for the press.

Newburyport, July 4, 1810.

FROM a respectful regard to your request; and in compliance to custom, I submit the copy to your disposal.

Of the Selectmen of Newburyport.


ON this day we should come forward with open hearts and independent minds to discuss principles of government; to expatiate with sincerity and justice upon national affairs; scrupulously to examine the conduct of Rulers and to see that no strange fire is offered by unhallowed hands on the altar of our liberties; to animate and enlighten each other in republican feelings and duties, to cherish in our breasts the love of distinction and to awaken our minds to a virtuous desire of national greatness.

While on this day we indulge a noble pride in contemplating our exertions for Independence, and feed our imaginations with rapturous views of future years, let us moderate our joy by calling to mind the fate of all republican institutions. Where once the super-human Spartan, the courtly Athenian, and the lordly Roman were found, is now seen the idle Turk and the effeminate Italian. The laws of Lycurgus and Solon, the Senatus-Consultum are changed for the imperial mandates of a tyrant to his slaves. We delight to dwell on the youth and manhood of republican States, as we do on the youth and beauty of Alcibiades, or the iron muscle and godlike mein of Hercules; but pass in silence the loathsomeness and decrepitude of their old age, when they exhibited all that is mean in suffering and base in action. History faithfully records their steps to wretchedness and extinction; but we turn from the melancholy downfall of Republics unwilling too closely to inspect their sullied brightness and diminished glory.

Switzerland is the only exception among the republics of all ages to national suicide. She alone is worthy the tears of time and the lamentations of the world. The echo of her hills repeated the dying accents of liberty on the eastern continent.

Knowledge and virtue are the soul of a Republic. Without them no free government can exist. If men are intelligent, moral and religious he laws are permanent and the people happy; but unenlightened man has no stability of character. In possession of power he is a merciless despot, in the power of others he is a tame and pliant slave. In a free government and under mild laws he is a violent opposer of just restraint and wholesome obedience. With obscure views, strong passions and vicious propensities he is the enemy of his own happiness and author of his own misery. From a deep knowledge of human nature the wise men of ancient Republics seized the moments of peace and reason to fix some mound against popular frenzy; to save the people from their own infatuation and folly. The appealed to the understandings of the people in their calmest moments, and to the best feelings of their hearts, and made them seal the checks to themselves by all the influences of superstition and religion. But in vain did the wise and virtuous attempt to save them; for in the first paroxysm the labors of wisdom were torn away and became as bands of straw on the hands of a maniac. The infuriated multitude drove their sages into banishment, or compelled them to drink the poisonous cup. Honorable services were no safeguard from their fury; and an illustrious name only excited envy and hatred.

Other things were expected of our Republic; for we did not, like them, begin in a state of barbarian ignorance and wait the lapse of ages for knowledge and experience; but in the moments succeeding the struggle for our Independence, when we were quiet from weakness, and peaceful because exhausted by contending, the talent of our country was collected to deliberate upon a constitution of government. Every fountain of knowledge was open; all the maxims of philosophy at hand; and “all the spoils of time” were before them to be examined, selected, modified and combined.

The constitution from their hands was theoretically beautiful and grand. The principles were simple; built on the everlasting foundations of justice. Barriers were raised against the encroachments of wealth and power, and the weak and defenseless were protected in their rights. The widest field for political distinction was open to all. We received this Constitution. Would to Heaven we had been wise enough for its full and continual operation. We were not sufficiently virtuous for this system of government; for while we were feeling its most beneficial effects, disappointed demagogues were scattering ambiguous voices, which were caught by the insolent and vicious. The serpent was seen lurking in this paradise the morning after its creation. This party at first, were hardly noticed. They shrunk from the splendid blaze of talents in our national Councils, from the immaculate purity and renowned virtue of our first magistrate; but in secret they were gaining strength and rancor. The disaffected part of the community joined them to vent their malice, and the weak man, who was ambitious; they ensnared the dreams of honor. From the confines of darkness these opposers of the Administration of Washington, came forth to censure every action and attack every measure, regardless of decency or justice. Every act of the Administration, however mild and salutary, was by this faction called oppressive and tyrannical. The cry of danger was so loud and so frequently reiterated that the timid were alarmed, and the weak became suspicious. At length, after twelve years uniform and vindictive opposition from this party, to the genuine principles of republicanism, Mr. Jefferson its head came into office. Washington for eight years, had led us by a direct road and rapid marches to a high eminence among nations; but at this period he was no longer numbered with the living. His immediate successor, Mr. Adams, during his term of office, with few deviations, wisely followed his steps. At the name of this man my bosom labors with mingled emotions of reverence, pity, and contempt. He had never apostatized from the principles of his great prototype, we should on his anniversary have been wreathing garlands of flowers for this venerable head; for he was an early and able advocate for the Independence of his country. If he had died before his vanity and wounded pride had overcome his reason, we should on this day have been strewing his grave with cassia and defending the laurels of his tomb from the pestilential breath of his present friends.

Mr. Jefferson’s Administration deserves from every one the strictest scrutiny and freest remark; for in his Administration the world witnessed the most novel spectacle it had ever seen; a people by the bare suggestion of a chief magistrate cut off from a pursuit in which they were ardently and successfully engaged, and on which their dearest interests depended. Themistocles is immortal on the page of history for prevailing on the Athenians in a time of difficulty to quit their city and trust themselves to the sea. Mr. Jefferson by a simple dictum has done more to an immense country, than this great man did to single city, by incessant labor, matchless eloquence and profound art. But here all resemblance vanishes. The act of one saved and established the liberties of Greece, the act of the other impoverished and degraded his country. Mr. Jefferson, fed by the philosophers of France, with visionary plans for the improvement of human nature, unfortunately for us was clothed with power to put some of these schemes in experiment. He continued the same speculative zealot, although the school in which he was taught, with all their fanciful theories and wild calculations to give unalloyed happiness to the world, perpetuity to life, and to elevate men to gods, lad long since been swept from the earth and the remembrance of their existence almost forgotten. The seed sown in this country by France, during her revolution, has produced a plentiful and poisonous harvest. At the thoughts of France our old wounds bleed afresh, and no hand is able to staunch those recently made. From France for many years we have suffered violence, outrage and robbery with a cringing spirit and dastardly dread. When she has treated us with the most contempt; we have courted her with the most servility; and have kissed the foot of Bonaparte, when it has been lifted to crush our heads in the dust. Our citizens have expired in the dungeons of France, and our property has gone to replenish her exhausted treasury. It is true our government have remonstrated; but so feebly, that the mighty master of our destinies has told us he had not leisure to listen to our complaints.

The historian of a future age will be unable to account for this moral and political phenomenon that a nation, which had so nobly contended for Independence, so lately evinced such fortitude and patriotism, should in so few years become totally insensible to the prostration of her honor, and regardless of the lives and liberties of her citizens. Instead of asserting our rights and defending our property, we have been gazing in stupid wonder at the gigantic strides of the destroyer, and at times have so far forgotten our fate, that we have found pleasure in describing his power, ambition and success. We have seen the dews of death fall on the nations around him with scarcely an emotion to pity. Great God! How long shall this desolater of nations wear his crown stained with tears the dripping with gore? How long shall he bid fierce defiance to eternal justice, and yet prosper, as never man prospered? If Americans possessed the proud spirit, for which they were once distinguished, the storms which have shaken Europe, would have rolled at a harmless distance. Had our government risen in the majesty of her strength, the star which has shed its baleful influence on Europe, would not have darted a malignant ray on us. What are the armies of France to America! An immense ocean rolls between us, “and the thousand ships of England” ride on its waves. Had we preserved our little navy, and made proper additions to it yearly, we should have been able at this period to protect our commerce from French depredations; nor should we now be burning with shame and indignation, that our property and rights have been adjudged by a paltry Danish Court. Is it not enough to fire freemen with madness that such a petty power should treat us so villainously? And what is worst of all, that we should so tamely submit to it! Our rulers have seen this insult and degradation with perfect indifference. They will not enter into our feelings or alleviate our distress. But their office is not perpetual. Other times are coming, and the government will pass to other men. Already some of these political “glow worms ‘gin to pale their ineffectual fires.” Though the darkness is still great, the morning may be near; and when the day again shines upon us, the people will be convinced of what has often been told them; that by commerce only this country can grow populous, opulent and distinguished. Deprive us of our commerce and we shall be stationary or retrograde. Commerce is the sacred Palladium of our rights; and as long as it is extensive and prosperous, this country will increase in numbers and power.

Some politicians have exclaimed against a nation of merchants, as they are pleased to stile commercial countries, and asserted that no true patriotism could exist among men, who were in pursuit of riches. But we know these opinions to be incorrect. To prove that true national dignity and glory have been attained by commerce, we have only to glance at the history of commercial nations. The people of Tyre, while their trade flourished, were the most enlightened and invincible of any nation on earth. The arts and sciences were found among them in greater perfection, than among other nations. In accumulating property, they did not forget the necessity of defense. Though not very numerous they presented a warlike and formidable front, to the great nations around them. Carthage whose character we have through the suspected medium of Roman historians, their constant enemies, was a small country, wealthy by commerce and consequently powerful. At the mention of Carthage the Roman warrior’s cheek was blanched with fear, and the name of Hannibal carried terror within the walls of Rome. In the days of the Medici, who were princes and merchants, learning revived, and liberty took deep root and flourished. Commerce showered her Gold on literature and the arts and learning in return consecrated the genius of Commerce by binding his brow with the richest offerings of the Florentine muse. Holland has ever found her weight in the scale of nations exactly in proportion to the prosperity of her trade. Look back to the days of the DeWitts, and compare them with the reign of Louis.

If anyone doubts the beneficial effects of commerce on the civil and political liberties of a people, point him to Great-Britain, and he will find that her strength and influence has increased with her revenue. Examine her history for a century past and you will find she has increased in spirit and knowledge, as she has grown in wealth. The independence and wisdom of her House of Commons have risen in the same ratio of her exports. Is there any man among us, my fellow-citizens, who thinks it inexpedient for us to continue a commercial people? If there lives such a man, ask him to view our navigable rivers, our mountain-oaks and all our resources for building and equipping ships. Bid him think of the enkindled spirit of enterprise in our countrymen, who meet danger with delight, and smile at fear. Shall this vigor waste? Shall the manly sinew relax? Shall this restless and adventurous spirit, which pants for something to contend with and conquer, turn into indolence and vice for wan of action?

Shall these men who would gladly “brave the battle and the breeze,” be condemned to cultivate the bleak mountains or barren heaths of our country? Forbid it genius of New-England; and never let it be said that our nerve and fortitude are changed to feebleness and timidity. New-England must find her safety, her happiness and her fame in commerce, and must at all events have it. The convulsions of the world have stopped some of the usual channels of trade, but the same convulsions will open other channels and give room for industry and enterprise. We must not expect an interrupted course of prosperity in trade, and that the world will see us defenseless without taking advantage of such a state. Everything intimately connected with commerce deserves our highest attention. This impression will lead me to venture a few remarks on the maxim in the mouths of our political opponents,–“that great cities are a great evil.” Perhaps this may be said of cities in countries altogether agricultural, where the hard earnings of the peasant are dissipated by his master in luxurious idleness in the city. Commercial cities are mostly filled with industrious inhabitants, who instead of preying on the vitals of the country; lavish their wealth on it, which, like the overflowing of Helicon, produces all around perennial flowers and eternal verdure. In cities the asperities of character are smoothed and softened, and the manners receive a polish from the business and intercourse of life. In cities the reputation of men for virtues or talents is weighed in the balance and marked with proper notice and regard. Associations are formed for alleviating the miseries of humanity; for collecting stores of information from all parts of the world, and for extending the empire of the human mind.

As patriots we cannot but feel an interest in all the changes of the world. So intimately are nations connected at the present day that circumstances effecting one nation are almost always felt by others. But as lovers of freedom, we must rejoice at the recent events in Spanish America. A country formed by the God of nature on the most extensive scale, with mountains whose lofty summits seem to prop the starry Heavens; with rivers in magnitude like seas, enjoying the most salubrious air and the richest soil; with a population as large as the United States. This people have declared themselves independent. They have long been oppressed by the miserable policy of the mother country. Without commerce, without civil liberty, confined and restrained in their own domestic affairs, they have never reached any dignity of character; avaricious viceroys have plundered them with impunity, and kept them ignorant and dependent. The power of Bonaparte, which has made Spain “the skin of an immolated victim,” has un-riveted their chains. They seized a fortunate moment, and declared themselves independent. We hail them as a new born nation; and offer our prayers for their success. From justice and policy our government ought to be the first to acknowledge their independence. We hope they may experience the mild reign of national liberty, without passing through confusion and anarchy, and learn from the fate of other nations not to indulge in eccentric experiments in forming a government. This revolution will open an extensive trade; and if rightly improved, repay us in some measure what we have lost in Europe. Whatever path our government may pursue in this affair, or in any other; in whatever hands our destinies may be placed, may we honestly avow our sentiments, and fearlessly execute our just determinations, keep close to those politics which have been adopted by the wise and good, and consecrated by the immortal Washington. Politics, which are a combination of intelligence, social affection and religious belief; a love of government founded on efficient principles and administered with firmness and impartiality; a sacred regard to equal rights, and a just hatred of oppression from the many or the few; a union of ability and virtue, against loose principles and violent passions. This is federalism and its professors have magnanimously strove against the torrent, and maintained dignity and influence when the power had passed from their hands. The federal Legislature of our Commonwealth, last year, risked their political existence in the cause of their country. They saw the gulf was open and the plague was raging; and like Curtius, they boldly leaped in as a sacrifice for the general good. The federalists are now a minority, but a powerful minority, which are yet to save us. The party is now winnowed of its wretched chaff. The little souls, who longed for the rattles of office, have deserted our standard. Some of them are flattered and promoted; but we do not envy them the fruits of their apostacy. It was a pitiful ambition, and most pitifully are they rewarded. What honor is there in office, when honorable men are proscribed? Who is desirous of a seat in that Council, where witlings lead in the deliberations.

The hour is mournful and the prospect gloomy; but do not grow impatient. We have much to thank Heaven for, and much to rejoice in. Most of our civil rights yet remain. The Temple of Justice has been shaken by the warring winds of faction; but it stands as yet unprofaned and its sacred fires are burning. The spirit, which gained our Independence, rightly directed, will preserve it. The generation to come will grow wise by our misfortunes, and shun the evils we have borne. This strong delusion is but for a season; the return of reason is certain. To the rising race will soon be committed the guidance of the Country. Life is but a short and feverish dream; and those who are now “clothed in a little brief authority,” will soon be gone.

Much we owe you, venerable fathers, who fought our battles and secured our independence, when the veins of hope were chilled and dismay and despair hovered around you. Much we owe you honored Matrons, mothers of the fair and the brave, you partook of their dangers, cherished the flame of liberty, and shall share in their renown.

Every day is thinning the ranks of the heroes and statesmen, who have been conspicuous in our infant republic. The illustrious Green just tasted of liberty and died. Washington lived to raise us to the zenith of prosperity; but was opportunely called to Heaven. Death alone could shield his cheek from blushing at his country’s disgrace. Hamilton the pride of eloquence, and boast of genius, molders in an untimely grave. He was mild as the spirit of love, and immoveable as the rock of adamant. Had he lived in America would have had a Palinurus for every storm, who could have safely led the way in a starless night and through tempestuous seas. Within a few months Lincoln full of honors and years has descended to the tomb. Such was his purity in private life and his fame in war that his friends loved him with ardor, and his political enemies revered him for his virtues. My fathers, co-adjutors of these great men, in the cause of American freedom, “may your last days be your best days, or ever the silver cord of life is loosed;” see your children’s children rise up to call you blessed, and your country flourishing in republican virtues and increasing in wealth, fame and power.


Sermon – House of Representatives – 1864

Byron Sunderland was born in Shoreham on November 22, 1819. He served 45 years as Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. Sunderland spoke privately about Christian philosophy with Lincoln. He served as Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, and presided over the wedding of President Grover Cleveland at the White House. Notably, he preached in favor of abolition, at a time, and in a place, where it was dangerous to do so.

Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, and Chaplain U.S. Senate for Thirty-Eighth Congress.



Washington,  D.C. Feb. 4, 1864.
Chaplain U. S. Senate:
DEAR SIR:  Realizing the great value of the truths enunciated in the sermon delivered by you in the House of Representatives of the United States last Sabbath morning, “on the duty of maintaining the public worship of God,” knowing its most gratifying reception by the immense audience convened on that occasion, and feeling that others will be profited by hearing it, we invite you to repeat it at Hall No. 481 Ninth street, at a time agreeable to yourself, and also that you furnish a copy for publication.
With sentiments of high regard, we remain
Yours, very truly,
HENRY A. BREWSTER, New York.                                               WILLIAM BEBB, Ohio.
JUDSON S. BROWN, Massachusetts.                                             HANNIBAL HAMLIN, Maine.
LEONARD S. FARWELL, Wisconsin                                              SCHUYLER COLFAX, Indiana.
THADEUS STEVENS, Pennsylvania.                                             SOLOMON FOOT, Vermont.
AUGUSTIN CHESTER, Illinois                                                        D. CLARKE, New Hampshire.
JAMES M. EDMUNDS, Michigan.                                                  J. A. BROWN, Rhode Island.
B. B. FRENCH, Washington, D. C.                                                  W. C. DODGE, Minnesota.
A. F. WILLIAMS, Connecticut.                                                        J. CONNESS, California.
A. M. SCOTT, Iowa.                                                                           A. CARTER WILDER, Kansas.
N. B. SMITHERS, Delaware.                                                            R. G. GREENE, Virginia.
J. D. MERRILL, Missouri.                                                 HANISON REED, Florida.
J. W. NESMITH, Oregon.                                                                   J. D. DOTY, Utah.
J. F. SHARETTS, Maryland.                                                             J. CLAY SMITH, Kentucky.

WASHINGTON, D. C., Feb. 5, 1864.


GENTLEMEN:  Your note of the 4th inst. Is received, inviting me to repeat the discourse “on the duty of maintaining the public worship of God,” delivered in the House of Representatives January 31, 1864.  I cheerfully comply with the request, and designate Monday evening, the 8th inst., as the time.It is with thanksgiving to God that I find such sentiments endorsed by you, as the representatives of the great Christian community throughout the United States.  With trembling I think of the stern and fearful time in which we live, and of the stupendous contest for the supremacy of the law and of the perpetuity of the Union in which the nation is engaged.

I feel sure we all desire the triumph of our Government over the rebellion, because we believe it will be a victory for righteousness in the earth.

We must have Jehovah for our Captain by conforming to his requirements, and especially maintaining the public ordinances of his worship.
With sincere regards,
ISAIAH 66:23
“And it shall come to pass that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, says the Lord.”
This is a marvelous prediction.  What a day for the world, when the worship of God from month to month, and from week to week, shall be universal!

The worship of God implies the highest acts of which a rational creature is capable.  It demands all the powers of body and soul.  To conceive and feel all that it implies, and to give suitable outward expression to its thoughts and emotions, by the posture of the body, by the voice, by the various faculties of manifestation, presupposes a character of the noblest culture.

The worship of God may be solitary, as of the individual alone – domestic, as in the family – social, as in the small companies of friends – or public, as in the great and open congregation.

In any case however, to be real it must be spiritual, whatever may be the outward act by which it is expressed – “God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

And what does this mean but that homage which is due to God as the Father of spirits, and the Supreme King?  In acts of worship, we render to God an acknowledgment of his right to rule over us – of the supreme authority of his law, and the righteousness of his kingdom and dominion, in opposition to all other pretended authority whatsoever.  For such an act, the whole being of the man is requisite – body, soul, mind, reason, sense, memory, hope, imagination, and the loftiest thoughts of human faith.  And as to spirituality, what is it but the life of justice and truth and virtue?  Can anything be more spiritual than these?  If I pay my honest debt, I hold the essence of that deed is as purely spiritual as the act of the loftiest adoration – both are proper upon occasion, and both befit the highest development of our nature.

Each form of worship of God has its appropriate characteristics, and requires in its observance the outward expression suited to its nature.  As I intend, in this discourse to speak chiefly of public worship, I will remark, in passing, that the general usage of the evangelical world has assigned three grand parts to the service of God in the great congregation: prayer – reading and expounding the Holy Scriptures – and praise in singing, with instruments of music; the first two generally conducted by the minister – the last by a choir, or the whole assembly.  Each of these parts is held to be of paramount importance, both from their intrinsic fitness and from the long experience of the affections of human nature.  Wherever an assembly meets for the public worship of God on the Sabbath, ample provision should be made, if practicable, for the full performance of each of these parts, so that nothing may be wanting to the great object.

In a congregation like this, meeting in a place like this, we have all the material or physical requisites, if properly employed, to make the public worship of God what it ought to be, so far as it depends upon such conditions.  If there is a failure, in any degree or in any sense, to make the service all it should be, we must attribute it to ourselves.  The Hall itself is sufficient – the attendants here are diligent, courteous and faithful – ministers are provided – the Sabbath day comes round – the word of God lies open before us – the people assemble – and the service begins.  That there may be given to public worship its greatest impressiveness, I take leave to mention that some general order should be observed, by all in the congregation, through the different parts of the service.  For example, in the reading of the Scriptures and preaching, let all sit with fixed attention upon what is uttered by the minister – not listless, or perhaps asleep – not distracted by idle curiosities – not whispering, or moving about or leaving the assembly, unless by imperative necessity.  Custom has stamped all these things as exceedingly vulgar and low-bred, besides being irreverent and insulting to God.

In time of singing, let all stand up, and devoutly join in the hymn of praise by the voice, or in silent meditation.  In time of prayer, let all kneel or bow the head forward, attesting by their attitude their sense of the solemnity of the act – and let there be no unnecessary noise or confusion, as is often the case in the time of daily prayer in these chambers – talking, rattling of papers, sitting in the seat, perhaps reading or writing, and in many ways showing that indifference to the act of prayer to God, which is positively shameful.  And while on this point, I wish every member of Congress were here today, that I might ask it of these kind gentlemen, such of them as have fallen into this habit – for I rejoice to say that many should be exempted – nay, I would not insinuate that to be a member of Congress is to be prima facie an unchristian man – every man innocent till proved guilty, is the maxim of law to which they, with us, are entitled; and indeed I know some among them to be as noble Christian gentlemen as are to be found in the land – and far, far be it from me to inveigh against men whose lives illustrate the clear virtues and sublime sympathies of our divine religion; who rejoice when it flourishes, and lament when it declines, and who would go to every length of rational sacrifice to promote its extension in the earth – no, not such do I intend – but such rather as profess no such adherence to its cause, and certainly exhibit none to be spoken of – but that I might ask it of them to reform in this particular.

I allude to this subject, not in a spirit of bitterness or personal complaint at all; for I have this to say, that in all my personal intercourse with members of Congress, and with the officers and employees of the Capitol, I have never received anything but kindness and respect, and I should be sorry to have aggrieved any of them, by alluding to these things now – but I do feel a solicitude for the honor of God, and that men should pay that homage to Him which is due to the Father of us all.  It is true that many times members are absent from the daily prayers = for which I have heard various reasons alleged – some detained by necessary business – some by providential dispensations – some from want of inclination toward this duty – and some from a positive dislike of the sentiments these gentlemen from this public Sabbath service, many, it is true, worshipping in the churches of the city, but the majority, I fear elsewhere, leaving the assembly here to be largely made up, from week to week, of strangers from all parts of the land, and of the great sojourning public who have no other stated place of worship.

It naturally follows from these very circumstances, that there is no certain reliance to be placed upon any one or any number of persons, for that most important and yet most difficult part of public worship, the praise of God in the singing of sacred hymns.  All that can be expected is the voluntary service of those who may be disposed to aid in the singing for the time being, upon a mere voluntary impulse.  Congress manifesting so great an indifference to the whole matter, not only by the absence of the greater portion of the members, but also by the decided opposition of the majority to making any provision for such services, it must continue to be a matter of regret that the ordinary resort in such cases to voluntary contributions is not practicable, and consequently if divine service is held here on the Sabbath, it must be subject to the inconvenience, the deficiency and the depression, which I have here pointed out.

It is true, a man may say, what right have you to lecture me on this or any other subject?  I reply, by the right of free speech, which God has given me – and when I have given my lecture, in respectful terms, there my responsibility ends, and his begins.  If Congress may not choose to receive what they regard as a chaplain’s lecture, that is their business, not mine.  This rule applies universally.  If you read a lecture to me, I cannot deny you the right – but my own judgment must decide whether it is of any value, and whether or not I will heed it; and I act in this, under a responsibility for which I am accountable, and one day must account to the Judge of all.  So I am the more earnest to develop the whole matter before us, as far as it lies in my power.

Now I undertake to say that there is an erroneous and most vicious public sentiment abroad, not only here among the public functionaries of the Government, but everywhere throughout the country, upon the whole question of the public worship of God.  Does it ever occur to men, that God has required these public ordinances of religion to be observed unto Him, and has foretold the advent of a day when all flesh shall come and worship before Him?  Does it ever occur to men to feel that one is just as much bound by these requirements as another?  Does it ever occur to them to think, that one man, as a member of the religious community, has just as much to think, that one man, as a member of the religious community, has just as much interest at stake in the maintenance of these ordinances of Heaven as another?  And yet this is really so.

I have truly no more interest in the matter than you have; and you have truly no more interest in the matter than that officer of the Government, high or low, who appropriates the Sabbath day of God to pleasure excursions, and forsakes the public worship of the Almighty, that he may pay court to some foreign minister, or find means for his own private and personal recreation.  I say I have no more interest in the matter than we all have in common – for if these ordinances of God are wantonly ignored and willfully neglected – if the great light that shines in them shall finally be extinguished, and the darkness and degradation of vice, precursor of destruction, shall succeed to it – and if finally, the whole structure of society, undermined and s=disintegrated, shall tumble into ruin, I shall have no more to lose than my neighbor, in the common catastrophe!  What I lose, he will lose – we shall all be alike despoiled.

Now the whole community may be divided in respect to this matter of public worship, into three classes: 1st, those who attend upon it with some just sense of its true nature and importance; 2d, those who go to the sacred assembly from grossly inadequate, if not wholly improper motives; 3d, those who stay away altogether.  Of the first class I have nothing to say, but that it is comparatively small – alas!  To small, I fear, for the leavening of the whole lump.  Of the second class I have this to say, that I wonder at them.  I am thankful to my Maker that whatever may have been, or may now be my faults, I never had the disposition or desire to attend public worship for the simple sake of seeing or being seen – of making a display – of ogling the assembly – and in short for any and every purpose, but the single one which is alone pertinent and proper, the devout and reverent waiting upon the Majesty of earth and heaven.  I never had any sympathy with that spirit which can sport and trifle in the place and time of prayer, – I never could comprehend that levity which mocks at the most sacred things, and turns the very sanctuary of Jehovah into a theatre of laughter and of jeers.  Of the third class I testify, in the name of religion, that they are moral delinquents by habit and inclination, and in their example before the nation and the world, they support the grand foundation principle of a practical atheism, and to this extent they are corrupters of society and the enemies of mankind.  I take my stand on the decrees of God’s word, and boldly declare that any man, who habitually neglects the worship of God, is a traitor not only to the high government and law of God, but also to the security and welfare of human society itself.

Said the devout Witherspoon, one of the signers of the Declaration, and one of the noblest spirits of the Revolution, a Christian and a clergyman of those brave and heroic times – “He is the truest friend to American liberty who is the most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind.  Whoever is an avowed enemy to God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country.  It is your duty in this important and critical season to exert yourselves, everyone in his proper sphere, to stem the tide of prevailing vice, to promote the knowledge of God, the observance of his name and worship, and obedience to his laws.  Your duty to God, to your country, to your families, and to yourselves, is the same.  True religion is nothing else but an inward temper and an outward conduct suited to your state and circumstances, in the Providence, at any time.  And as peace with God and conformity to Him add to the sweetness of creature comforts, while we possess them, so in times of difficulty and trial it is the man of piety and inward principle that we may expect to find the uncorrupted patriot, the useful citizen, and the invincible soldier.”

In affixing his name to the Declaration of Independence, this man rose in that illustrious assembly, and gave utterance to these words: “Mr. President, that noble instrument on your table, which insures immortality to its author, should be subscribed this very morning, by every pen in the House.  He who will not respond to its accents, and strain every nerve to carry into effect its provisions, is unworthy the name of freeman.  Although these grey hairs may descend into the sepulcher, I would infinitely rather they should descend thither by the hand of the executioner than desert at this crisis the sacred cause of my country.”  The words ran through the body like electric fire.  Every man arose and affixed his name to that immortal document.  He spoke then the best and highest word of the nation.  He was the mouthpiece of a people standing on the religion of the Bible.

Every nation under heaven has had its religion, and will have to the end of time.  Our own nation has never recognized, in form or principle, any system but that of Christianity, the highest outward expression of which is known in the public service of divine worship maintained among us, especially on the Sabbath day.  And of all places in the land, none should be more important, none more command the sympathy and awaken the interest of the whole people, than the public worship of God in the Capital of the nation.

The historical facts connected with this subject are fraught with the deepest importance, and are entitled to the most serious consideration.  To go no further back than the adoption of the Federal Constitution, and confining ourselves also simply in this statement to the proceedings had in relation to the chaplains of Congress, we call to mind first, the fact that the Constitution of 1789 forbids Congress to make “law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” – and further says, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification for any office or public trust in the United States.”  This secures two things – the freedom of religion, and the equality of religious sects.  But it does not dispense with the divine obligations of the public worship of God.  So our fathers believed, and so they acted.  The first Congress under the Constitution elected two chaplains, and this practice is continued to the present day.  The law of 1789, and of 1816, regulating this subject, and fixing an annual salary which has never exceeded $750, was passed in pursuance of the conviction not only of the constitutionality, but of the eminent propriety and religious obligation of the service to which the chaplains of Congress were appointed.

And while speaking of salary for the chaplain service in this country, permit me to notice the contrast presented by the State establishment of the Church of England.  The statistics were furnished me by a friend who has thoroughly examined this whole subject.  From tables prepared by him, it appears that the tithing system of Great Britain for the support of the Church, opens an abyss absolutely appalling.  One single fact illustrates the truth of this assertion.  The amount of annual salary paid to some twenty four individuals in the highest orders of the clergy, aggregates nearly $1,000,000 – the highest single salary reaching over $78,000, and the lowest exceeding $20,000!  What then must be the cost of the entire ecclesiastical establishment?

Now, in comparison with this, what is done by our Government for the support of Christianity?  Until the present war, which has of course increased the expense of the chaplaincy, still however, leaving it as a system very defective, the little that was attempted by the Government of the United States can be reported in few words.  I find from a small volume published in 1856, entitled “Government Chaplains,” by Dr. L. D. Johnson, and containing much interesting and curious information, that there were at that date thirty chaplains in the Army, twenty-four in the Navy, and two in Congress, besides a number of post-chaplains and teachers among the Indians.  The whole expense annually to the Government of supporting this body of men did not exceed a quarter of a million of dollars.  I venture to assert that no nation ever existed on earth that maintained the popular religion at so cheap a rate.  Think of it again.

To say nothing of the army or navy, Congress has two chaplains, and gives them each $750 per annum for their services in daily attendance.  I do not for one ask an increase.  I am not pleading for money so much as for the moral effect of the observance, in Congress, of the public ordinances of Divine worship.  But there is no provision of law regulating or even requiring the public Sabbath service in which we are now engaged, and there never has been from the beginning, so far as I am instructed.  It seems to stand alone upon custom.  It has been the unvarying usage for the chaplains of Congress to hold one public service in the Capitol on the Sabbath.  It is evident that Washington, Franklin, Madison, Ellsworth, Sherman and their illustrious compeers, approved of the custom, and that ever since that day, the greatest, the best, and the purest men in the nation have given it countenance and support.  Yet there have been times when questions of the propriety of such services have arisen – times when a portion of the people have petitioned Congress for the abolition of the whole system of the chaplaincy, and consequently of the public religious services which chaplains perform – and times when the system of Government chaplains, and of the Christian ministry itself has met, in the Houses of Congress and out of them, a storm of ridicule, contempt and denunciation.

On the 5th of September, 1774 the American Congress was in session.  There was a doubt in the minds of many about the propriety of opening the daily deliberations with prayer, the reason assigned being the great diversity of opinion and religious belief.  Then rose the venerable puritan, Samuel Adams, with his long white locks hanging over his shoulders, and spoke as follows:  “It does not become men professing to be Christians, convened for solemn deliberation in the hour of their extremity, to say there is so wide a difference in their religious belief that they cannot as one man bow the knee in prayer to the Almighty, whose aid they hope to obtain.  Independent as I am, and an enemy to all Prelacy as I am known to be, I move that the Rev. Dr. Duche, of the Episcopal church, be invited to address the Throne of grace in prayer.”  Dr. Duche complied, and offered prayer, first in the form of his church, and then in extemporaneous supplication, until all hearts were moved, and the whole assembly were bathed in tears.  In the Convention which formed the present Constitution, another scene occurred, no less remarkable and impressive, when the venerable Franklin proposed, in words of profound solemnity never to be forgotten, the introduction of prayer to the Father of Light for that wisdom which was then wanting to harmonize the conflicting elements, and establish the conditions of the nation’s welfare.

Many are the thrilling facts in our country’s history which demonstrate the necessity of public religious services, conducted by the Christian ministry, to the well-being of the Government and the highest prosperity of the whole people.  And now I remark, by the way, that a volume has recently been issued, entitled “The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States,” by the Rev. B. F. Morris, which is the only book of the kind in existence, and which I find to be a perfect treasury of the Christianity of the nation, as embodied in its public monuments, and attested by its public men – a book which ought to become the Manual of the people, and find a place in every library, and be in the possession of every man, woman and child in the nation, and the close companion of all, whether in public or private life.  I trust that book will be thoroughly studied by the present generation of Americans, for it has all the interest of a romance, with all the solidity of science, and all the sanctity of religion.  Go to that book, if you would see what the great and good men of the nation, from the beginning until now, have thought of the propriety and absolute necessity of the services of the Christian ministry, and of the observance of the public worship of God in our national affairs, and in the high places of the country.

I am mainly indebted to it for the impulse which originated this very discourse – for I saw it in manuscript, and have copiously drawn from it, as from a fountain deep and rare, for all the great words I have quoted, or am about to quote from our illustrious ancestors.  Need I say that its loyalty is one of its grandest features; that the very heart of a deep, genuine, glorious devotion to God and the Country and the Constitution, throbs through every page of it.  It could not be otherwise, for it is the sum of the great Christian monuments of the fathers who under God built up our nation – laid its foundation, and reared its mighty structure.  Oh had the degenerate sons of now dishonored sires in the rebellious States heeded these great lessons, instead of those of their false and lying prophets of a more recent time, how great a ruin they might have averted from their heads!

By the expressed conviction and resolute conduct of the great men of the first age of the Republic, the objections of the ignorant, the profane, the unbelieving, against the Christian religion and its devoted ministers were in a measure silenced.  But when at length, in after years, the institution of the Sabbath seemed to be peculiarly and openly endangered by the public example of the Government in the universal running of the mails, the Christian mind of the nation became alarmed, and the Christian ministry lifted up a decided protest, and made their voice heard in the halls of Congress upon that question.  This awakened a powerful opposition from the lax and dissolute men of every description, and kindled again into open conflagration the smoldering embers of the popular prejudice against the ministers and services of religion.  The debates in Congress of that period attest a severe conflict, in which at last however, the friends and advocates of immorality were virtually discomfited, and the cause of Christianity obtained a substantial triumph.  Thus the question of religion, especially as connected with the appointment of chaplains to Congress, and the public worship of God in the Capitol, was left undisturbed for a considerable period.  Meantime, however, a series of causes were operating to bring on the conflict in a fiercer form of political partisanship and bitter animadversion.

It must be confessed that the scramble for the office of chaplain to Congress, by many applicants, and by some perhaps not the best qualified for its responsibilities and duties, had been a growing evil, and was becoming an open scandal to the country.  Besides this, measures had been proposed in Congress affecting the question of slavery, and the repeal of a compact of long standing, which moved the whole nation to its very foundation.  It was an occasion when large portions of the Christian ministry felt justified in bearing an open testimony on the question at issue.  Earnest and stirring memorials, signed by large bodies of the clergy, were sent to Congress, and this aroused the indignation of Senators and Representatives of the dominant political party, against whose public policy the petitions of the memorialists were directed.  Sad is the chapter of the proceedings and debates in regard to the Christian ministry generally, and especially in regard to the election of chaplains, and their services in the 33d Congress.  The very election of a chaplain was characterized as “a farce.”  Votes were given for a female to be the chaplain of the House.  One speaker alludes to the election, as the election of “an humble chaplain.”  Another speaker said, “The candidates are multiplying, and those whose names are now before us are getting uneasy.

I am anxious to have the matter settled, so that the rejected applicants may apply for some other office if they do not get this!”  An article appeared in one of the daily papers of the city to this effect:  “We are altogether opposed to having chaplains to Congress.  We hope the last of them have been elected.  It is pretty well understood that those paid for prayers are to be made brief – cut off short, in order to avoid boring Congress.  Short as they are, they are bores.”  In the Senate, the opposition to the action of a portion of the Christian clergy, and especially to the ministers of New England, took a wider scope.  Senators held them up as deserving the grave censure of that body – as not knowing what they were talking about – as bringing our holy religion into disrepute – as agitators, transforming the lamb to the tiger and the lion.

Meanwhile, memorials came up from the profane and infidel in various quarters of the land for the total abolishment of the office of chaplain.  The reasons set forth for this were that the continuance of the office was in violation of the Constitution – that it imposed unjust taxation – that it was a virtual establishment of the union of church and state – and that it was subversive of the genius and spirit of American institutions.  All these points were fully answered in the reports of the Committees of the two Houses of Congress upon that whole subject, during that ever memorable period.  The Christian sentiment and deliberate sense of the people and of their representatives again prevailed, and the office of the chaplain and the public worship of God in this Capitol of the nation survived together!  But there are objections still, no doubt, lurking in the popular mind and heart, if not openly expressed, against the whole system of the Chaplaincy, and especially against the public worship of God in this high place, which I propose now to consider.

1.  It is unconstitutional.  The voice and practice of the fathers refute this charge.  The Constitution does not forbid the creation of the office of chaplain, with a salary by law of Congress; nor does it forbid the appropriation of money to support a decent observance of the public worship of God in this Capitol.  Congress appropriates thousands of dollars in other ways, not half so much calculated, in my opinion, to promote the public welfare and virtue of the people; and they have a right, under the Constitution, if they so choose, not only to employ a chaplain or chaplains to conduct daily prayers, and the services of public worship here on the Sabbath, but also to devote money from the public treasury to provide a choir, to purchase an organ, and to do all other acts and things necessary to the fullest perfection of divine service.  It will not do for any man to undertake to convince me that all this is unconstitutional.

It is a scandal on the Constitution – a reproach to the memory of our fathers – an insult to religion, and impiety toward God.  The catholic evangelical church of Christ of this day, in all denominations, will not tolerate such a sentiment – such a satire on the great organic law of a free and Christian people.  The Constitution is not at war with the law of God in this particular; and if it were conclusively shown to be, I should go for the higher law of God, and go for conforming the Constitution to that higher law.  We have had enough of sneering at this higher law of God in the land for the last fifteen years.  This is one of the iniquities that has brought at last the thunders of His judgment upon us.

2.  But this would be forming and establishing a union of church and state.  Not by any means.  I am as much opposed to such a union as any man, and would contend as strongly against it.  When our fathers, by the Constitution, deprived Congress of the power to establish religion by law, they did not intend to make us an infidel nation, nor our Government an impious and God-forsaken iniquity.  They meant not to divorce religion wholly from the existence and life of the Republic, but only to prevent the union of any Church establishment with the State, in such a way as to bind the conscience and burden the coffers of the people with either the creed or the taxes of any ecclesiastical institution.  Nobody finds fault with the employment of Government physicians and surgeons, and yet there is just as much reason on this ground for the complaint of a union of Therapeutics with the State.

What is meant by a State church is such as exists in England, where immense sums are appropriated, and large prerogatives exclusively granted to a single church establishment, at the expense of all others, and this in perpetuity.  No such policy has existed under our Constitution, and I trust it never may.  But it is a very different thing for Congress to provide for the public recognition and worship of God in their own halls, leaving all men free to act upon their conscience as to their attendance upon the same, responsible alone to God, for the manner in which these obligations are discharged.

3.  It is no place for religious services.  Ah, and whose opinion is this?  Jesus Christ instructs us, that the day has gone by, when the worship of God shall be confined to any one locality exclusive of another – when men shall worship the Father neither alone at Jerusalem nor in the mountains of Samaria, but everywhere, where men shall worship Him in the spirit.  The temple, the synagogue, the academy, the market-place, the forum, the theatre, the aeropagus, as well as the Christian sanctuary, have all been used for this high purpose.  Nay, the deserts and caves, and fastnesses of the mountains, the vast solitudes of nature, the wide forest, the open sea, under the broad sky in the light of day, in the shadow of midnight, the camp, the caravansary, the hospital, the asylum, the cottage, the seminary, the halls of justice, and the very jails and penitentiaries have been made the temples of the public worship of the Almighty.  And now will it do to say that here in the high conclave of the nation, there is no place for the pure, spiritual, public worship of the one only living and true God?

It is the thought of the infidel – it is the word of the profane!  I am well aware of the opinion of multitudes in this land in regard to the whole subject of Christianity, its ordinances, its laws, its requirements, it ministry, and especially in regard to those who represent it as chaplains, whether here or in the army or the navy.  I know they look with contempt upon the whole arrangement.  They treat the whole matter as though it were but the cant of superstition, or the bigotry of ignorance.  They look upon chaplains as beggars, and upon God as a myth, and upon his worship as a mummery.  They think it superbly magnanimous even to tolerate all this.  They think and feel and act as if Christianity had no right to be here in the world, and its ministers ought to be apologizing to every man they meet, for the fault of pursuing their profession.  But those who have such ideas are not the wise and virtuous of the land.  They are the impious and corrupt, the very dregs and refuse of human society.  They want no restraint on their lusts and passions.

They would hear no reproof of their vices.  They desire full scope for their briberies, their dishonesties, their peculations, their foul and pestilent iniquities.  Such men would no doubt be glad to see God himself dethroned, his law abolished, his government destroyed, and every vestige of his authority swept away, in order that they might run unimpeded and unquestioned into every excess of riot.  Why, I hear it on every hand, day by day, whispered in our dwellings, at the street corners, and everywhere, that there is an amount of corruption going on among us, through men connected with the Government, in all its branches, political, pecuniary, personal, official, and in every way, enough to sink the nation by the weight of its own enormities.  I hear it said on every side, that the same is true socially with the population of the city, in their resorts of amusement and in their dens of infamy.  Now if this be so, would it not be the most natural thing in the world for such a multitude to desire the public monuments of religion to be everywhere destroyed, that they may have full license to run their course of unscrupulous and lawless conduct, without molestation and without restraint.

And now I undertake to say to all such that I ask no leave of them to be following my profession as a minister of Christ.  I shall never beg of any such the privilege of staying in the world to preach the Gospel, and to join in the public worship of Almighty God.  I shall never go creeping and crawling before any man, in my clerical capacity.  If I am not treated as I ought to be, I have the instructions of my Great Master how to proceed.  I will shake the dust off my feet for a witness against them, and leaving them to settle the account with God in the day of final reckoning, I will go elsewhere, as Providence may guide my way.  It is not for any minister of Christ to be whining and puling among his fellow men, as though he were but half a man himself.  Someone remarked to me the other day that a member of Congress had said “he thought it a great privilege that we were allowed the use of this chamber for public worship at all” – and I say if that is the sense of the American Congress, I for one will leave them, the moment it is ascertained, to do their own preaching and praying, and to follow out their own devices in their own way.

I will not waste my breath upon any class of men who, in this age and country, feel like that.  The man who repudiates the Christian religion, and shows his contempt for all it enjoins, and for all who represent and serve it, does not reflect that it is the parent of all the highest social, intellectual, civil and moral good in the land – that it has fostered into greatness all the resources, industries, prosperities, honors and dignities of the nation – that it has adorned our civilization with its rarest ornaments – that it has given to woman her true place in the scale of life – that it has multiplied all the charities and magnanimities of human nature – and he may well be told, in the sententious language of Dr. Franklin, who on one occasion wrote, with a quiet satire only equaled by the truth of the sentence he penned, “For among us it is not necessary , as among the Hottentots, that a youth to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother!”  I think so, too.  Take Christianity from this land today – suspend the public worship of God everywhere – eliminate every radix and vestige of the Christian element from among the people, and what would you have left but a mass of fools and knaves, and a general scoundrelism swallowing itself up on all sides!  Therefore I say, stand your ground, to all men who would be true to God, the gospel, and their country.

I do not come here to ask any favor for myself, and I again assert that every man, high or low, black or white, has an equal interest and a common obligation for the maintenance of the public worship of God in this Capitol.  As a single member of the religious community, I do feel an intense interest in the support of the public recognition of God in this high place of the nation; and though I might never preach here again, it would be my prayer that some messenger of the great truth of Revelation might always stand here to uphold the mighty doctrine, and to flash its light and proclaim its summons over all the nation.

4.  But the office of chaplain is liable to abuse, both in the manner of seeking it and in the character of its incumbents.  I know it is alleged, and with some foundation of truth, I fear, that unworthy men have disgraced the profession, not only here but in the army and navy.  But the true remedy is purgation, not the destruction of the office.  Would you abolish Congress, because some members of Congress disgrace their station?  I deplore as deeply as any man the delinquencies of men assuming the sacred office, only to make it the means of pandering to their own selfishness or corruption.  I denounce it here, and I denounce it everywhere.  But let us not tear down the house over our heads because some thief or robber has stolen into it, to rifle it of its contents.

5.  But the services of chaplains are a bore to Congress.  Ah! Then so much the worse for  Congress.  I am glad no record shows, so far as I have seen, that any member of Congress said such a thing as that.  It was said by some scribbler for a newspaper.  It comes with an ill grace from a class of individuals who get their living by filling the issues of the daily press with garbage.  Do not take me to be criticizing that mighty power in the land without discrimination.  When I consider the gigantic influence of this wonder of modern civilization, I am struck with awe at the constancy, the rapidity, and the ubiquity of its operations.  It has more than realized all the fabled actors of antiquity.  The hundred-handed Briareus, the hundred-eyed Argus, the thousand gifts of Apollo, the strength of Hercules, the wisdom of Minerva, the laughter of Momus are all its own – yea, and it has also the secrets of the fatal box of Pandora – and the prolific growth and foliage of all times and climes, and latitudes and seasons, until its leaves fall daily thicker than the leaves of all the forests – to bless or blight the nations.  It is a mighty power for good or evil.  Many great and good men are endeavoring to direct its energies – to them let us give all praise – but in the hands of the evil and the venal, who can calculate the mischief it has power to work!

6.  But ministers are too apt to meddle with politics.  If they would only preach the gospel, and let politics alone, they might be tolerated.  Now I admit that there is a danger here, and that some fall into it – that is to say, ministers may fail in their great mission of preaching the gospel to the world, either by suppressing its great cardinal elements, and foisting in their place some truth, or error, as the case may be, which does not belong to the place they would assign to it; or they may so preach the gospel, in their style of handling it, as to render nugatory its legitimate influence and effect.  All this is to be carefully avoided.  But whoever undertakes to say that the gospel is not in itself essentially a system that takes hold upon the question of right and wrong everywhere in the nature, relations, society, intercourse and business of men, knows nothing of its principles or of its design.  I know there has been an attempt to divorce the gospel from politics, and politics from the gospel; and I hold it to be one of the most stupendous practical errors, follies, heresies, and crimes of the age.  The gospel is the most radical force of a moral and spiritual kind ever introduced into this world.

It is God’s plough-share, driven afield by the great cattle of his Providence, through the wilderness of human wrong and outrage for the last two thousand years; and wherever it comes, it is destined to tear up the prescription of ages of iniquity, the great systems of false religion and false philosophy, the infidelity, the tyranny, the oppression, the vice and rooted corruptions of mankind, and hurl them headlong from its mighty furrows.  If it encounters a vulgar and vitiated system of politics, it will no more spare that than anything else that tends to the destruction and ruin of mankind.  The gospel was designed to attack all false opinions and sentiments, all immoral customs and practices, all despotic and cruel principles, and every enemy of the virtue, the true culture, the Christian progress, and the spiritual elevation of mankind; and woe be to that professed minister of Christ who fails through any fear or favor of man, to declare the whole counsel of God, who abates one jot from the Revelation of divine wisdom.  It is the duty of the minister to proclaim Christ and him crucified, the only and all-sufficient Savior of the world, and all the cognate and kindred doctrines of grace; but around this central doctrine of the cross, this article of justification by faith, every human interest and relationship come thronging; and he must apply this truth, rightly dividing the word – a workman that needs not to be ashamed.

The truth is, and we may all know it, a pure Christianity is the only sufficient and proper conservator of the duties, the obligations, and immunities of mankind – the only lasting and adequate security of republican constitutional liberty.  This is the testimony of all the wisdom and greatness of the ages that are past:

“Government has an everlasting foundation in the unchangeable will of God,” said Otis.  “May we ever be a people favored of God,” said Warren.  “If it was ever granted to mortals to trace the designs of Providence, we may cry out, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise,” said Samuel Adams.  “There is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the Christian religion,” said Patrick Henry.  “Let us play the men for God and the cities of our God,” said John Hancock.  “Science, liberty, and religion are the choicest blessings of humanity,” said John Adams.  “Righteousness exalts a nation,” testified Robert Treat Paine.  “The hand of Heaven seems to have directed every occurrence,” said Elbridge Gerry.  “I believe in the divine mission of our Savior,” said Thornton.  “I believe in the Christian religion,” said Hopkins.  “Let us be hopeful and trusting, for the Lord reigns,” said William Ellery.  “A life-long devotion to his country and his God.” Is the eulogy of Roger Sherman.  “

A professing Christian of eminent virtue,” was the substance of the testimony of the biographers of Huntingdon, of Williams, of Wolcott, of Livingston and Stockton.  Of Witherspoon, the historian says, “If the pulpit of America had given only this one man to the Revolution, it would deserve to be held in everlasting remembrance.”  “The worship of God is a duty,” said Benjamin Franklin. “I tremble for my country, when I reflect that God is just,” said Jefferson.  “The duty we owe to God can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force and violence,” said George Mason.  “Religion is the solid basis of good morals,” said Governor Morris.  Of Pinckney it is certified, “He had practical faith in the divinity of the Bible, and its essential need to republican government” – of Benjamin Rush, that “he was one of the greatest and best of Christians.”  Fisher Ames, John Hart, James Smith, and Robert Morris were all believers in the gospel of Christ; and some of them were as eminent in His church as in the councils of the nation.  Hamilton, that great genius of the Revolution, says, “The law of nature, dictated by God himself, is of course superior to any other.  No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this.”  “Grateful to Almighty God for the blessings which, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, he has bestowed upon my beloved country,” said the venerable Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

Thompson, Wythe, Wilson, Chase, the two Lees, were all pre-eminent Christians.  Every one of their illustrious associates and successors might be quoted as witnesses of the same great faith.  John Jay, Boudinot, Madison, Monroe, Ellsworth, Drayton, Greene, Knox, Wm. Livingston, Trumbull, Washington and Lafayette, Marshall, the Randolph’s, the Adams, Jackson, Clay, and Webster – all these have left an imperishable record of their conviction that it is as true now as in the remotest antiquity, that, using the language of Plutarch, “a city might as well be built in the air, without any earth to stand upon, as a commonwealth or a kingdom be constituted or preserved without religion!”  Need I say then, how deeply the American people, but especially the rulers, lawgivers, judges, and military and civil functionaries of our country, ought to feel the necessity and obligation of cleaving to this public recognition of Almighty God, and the great foundation principles of the Christian faith, in such a day as this?  Now the earthquake of popular excitement is heaving in every quarter.  Now the hurricane of popular opinion is sweeping fiercely and wildly across the naked heart of the nation.  Now grim-visaged war rolls his dun clouds, reddened with the blood of our bravest and best, over all the sky.  Now we are in the most momentous year of these great travail pangs – a year in which it is to be determined whether the nation, with the sword in one hand, and reeling under the weight of staggering blows from a giant rebellion, uplifted by the awful energies of the universal convulsion, can with the other steadily hold her great and sovereign birthright, and by the deliberate and unrestricted suffrage of a free people, advance to the high seat of Government a citizen for their President!  Oh when I look at these things, I say God help us.  Let the nation cling to the Christian religion.

It would be easy to show, as has been done over and over again, how the public worship of God tends directly to work those effects in the opinions, habits and spirit of the people which contribute to the public security and prosperity; and how, on the other hand, the neglect of these great ordinance s conspires to the demoralization of communities, until they are ground to powder beneath the upper and nether millstones of God’s providence.  But I shall not enter into this argument now.  It is sufficient to assert that no people can retain the principles of religion apart from its public monuments, ordinances, and commemorations.  God has foretold therefore, that his worship shall be universal; and that in the high places of every nation there shall be the celebration of his praise.  And therefore let me ask you whether it is a matter of individual and national concern for the people of the United States to maintain or not the public worship of Almighty God in these chambers of their Capitol?  Shall the great hope of man and the great light of salvation here be permitted to go out from the highest public altar of the country – the temple of law and justice – the edifice consecrated to the noblest earthly work of man?  No, no, sai I- a thousand times, no!  I would not have this capitol polluted and disgraced by any company of brawling politicians, demagogues and conspirators, who under the sacred forms of legislative office, in the proud parade of senatorial robes – bearing the insignia of representatives of a mighty people, use such a place as this to hatch their infernal plots, and to perfect the finesse or the chicanery of their corrupt and mischievous designs.

Nay, rather I would have every man who enters these halls feel at once the grand old air of an upright and majestic manhood – feel that he stands in a temple – not like that at Jerusalem, which smoked with the holocausts of a thousand victims but a place where God’s homage is paramount, and man’s dignity the next in value to the Infinite; both uniting to give these halls a sanctity more than the veneration of the Amphictyon Council – more than the Hebrew Sanhedrin – more than the Court of Aeropagus, or the Delphic Oracles – more than the Roman Senate- more than the Saxon Witenagemot – more than the House of Deputies of France – more than the Parliament of England.  And so long as the starry banner, the previous ensign of the Republic floats over the capitol, in token of the convention of the nation’s lawgivers, and so long as the statue of Liberty, now exalted over us by the wonderful skill and cunning handiwork of man, shall look down upon this grand panorama and proscenium of the metropolis, so long, even to the last running sand of expiring time, would I have this public structure devoted to the public worship of God – its pillars the emblems of his truth, its adornments the symbols of his favor, its chambers, halls and corridors filled with the rolling songs of praise, and echoing to the swell of voices uplifted in the wonder, the gratitude, the awe, and the adoration of His worship.

Yea, and when that glorious hour shall strike the full accomplishment of his great prediction, and from moon to moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all nations shall come before the Jehovah of the whole earth, and there shall be one matchless and continuous anthem of worship, reverberating from hill to hill, and from land to land, and from shore to shore, as the sun performs his circuit in the heavens, and all the ministers of God, becoming the mouth of the millions of earth’s people, shall utter their successive testimony to the truth of the great salvation, and from all the renowned cities of the globe shall break, and echo, and respond, in the soul-thrilling accents of apocalyptic tongues, the last great announcement of the emancipated world, the kingdoms of the earth have become the kingdoms of our God, and when the great heart of human nature no longer driven by the sins and sorrows of the time, but redressed and full of living joy, shall beat with the mighty fervor of unutterable enthusiasm, and when from every summit of nature, and every tower of man, shall peal forth the solemn knoll of God’s great bells of time, calling mankind to worship – Oh, then would I have the capitol of my country stand high and strong, with all the heart of the nation gathered about it, God’s favor shining upon it, millions of prayers centered in it, and the voice of its worship going up to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe in a volume the clearest, the grandest, and the most earnest of all the voices that shall salute the ear of Heaven from the manifold languages of the whole earth!  This is an emulation worthy to be fostered, and may the Lord Jehovah hasten it in his time! Amen.

Oration – July 5th – 1824, Quincy

George Washington Adams was the oldest son of John Quincy Adams. He graduated from Harvard, studied law, and was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He died in 1829.









The causes of great events, those events themselves, and their extensive consequences, are subjects worthy the attention of enlightened and intelligent minds. We have assembled, fellow citizens, to celebrate the anniversary of a day justly memorable in the records of our country’s history: a day glorious to this nation as the festival of its nativity; glorious to humanity, for the expression of principles, proportionate to its exalted privileges. It is the intention of our celebration to signify our adherence to those sublime principles, “which are not of an age but for all time,” and it is delightful to reflect upon the countless multitude of free Americans who with this purpose have watched this morning’s dawn. While we are endeavouring to pay the meed of gratitude to the memory of the past; while we are here to record our sense of our unexampled blessings, the voice of praise ascends around us in every variation of the passing wind: the time is hallowed: the Spirit of Gladness smiles on the land and her altars are adorned with thousand offerings: Genius is strewing roses over our happy clime, and Poetry is breathing forth her heaven born inspiration; throughout our wide extended territory, the day is welcomed with one burst of pleasure. Whence is this general joy? It arises from our independent freedom, which has made known to us the value of our institutions, planted by the energies, and secured to us by the virtuous efforts of our ancestors. Let their energy be to us an example, and their efforts motives for unfailing gratitude to Him who prospered them.The Declaration of Independence, was an advance in the progress of mind; a point in human history, to which the important occurrences of preceding ages led, and from which consequences of high import have proceeded.

The Christian Revelation, that mild and beautiful religion, which has taught man his duties and his hopes, is the true source of human happiness. With its establishment commenced the course of improvement, which succeeding ages and wonderful events have carried onward to our own age and time. The contemplation of the steps by which it has advanced affords much matter of instructive thought, and many reasons for just admiration. America has done and is doing her share in the great work and from the hour of the discovery up to the present moment has shown a proud example to the world.

Past history justifies the reflection that undertakings of magnitude are accomplished only through toil, and suffering, and perilous endurance. This vast continent, unknown for centuries, was discovered, from the fortunate conjecture of an enlightened mind; yet the history of its discoverer is a history of injuries; injuries during his life and neglect after his death. Born in a republic, Christopher Columbus was brought up upon the bosom of the wave and fitted for the mighty object of his life. Having conceived that object he imparted it first to the people of his native land. Censured by his own countrymen as a visionary projector; rejected by nation after nation to whom he had applied; Columbus persevered in his design, with assiduity and firmness truly admirable. At length the Spanish sovereigns risked the experiment: furnished the daring navigator with a miserable squadron, and assisted him with slight encouragement: ill appointed and badly manned, he sailed to find a world! Tried by the dangers of the ocean; distrusted by his men; conflicting twice with mutiny and rage, the promise was wrung from him that in three days if land were not discovered he would return to Spain. His life; his all was on the cast, but his own fortitude supported him. On the evening after he gave the promise, a distant light pierced the dark waste of waters; Columbus saw and marked the glimmering signal: it was a moment of intense interest: to his aspiring mind, another world was found! His triumph was complete; that little beam revived the fainting spirits of his crew, and relumed [illuminate again] the rays of Hope,

“That star on life’s tremulous ocean.”

But this is not the time, my fellow citizens, nor this the place to detail the romantic incidents in the fortunes of Columbus, however rich the theme. His discovery has been mentioned only to notice its effects. It occasioned a rapid improvement in the condition of civilized man, and we may trust that the bright beam Columbus saw, betokened to the untutored Indian, the rising of the star of Bethlehem.

The Discovery of America by Columbus in 1492, succeeded by that of a shorter passage to the East Indies in 1497 by Vasco de Gama, exposed to European avarice the sources of unlooked for wealth. From their full fountains, the Indies poured the precious metals into Europe like a flood. With them went luxury and its concomitant vices, but with them went also the means of knowledge and they aroused an ardent desire for its acquisition. Europe was astonished at these immense discoveries: Venice, the Ocean Power, saw with alarm and terror her sister nations winning all her wealth: Spain measured with enthusiasm, the vast possessions she had acquired: the avarice of England’s seventh Henry stimulated him to obtain for her some portion of this valuable territory: a succession of skilful navigators pursued the track of the great Genoese, and all conspired to increase the thirst for knowledge; mankind began to think: the Reformation followed, and this third astonishing event, rousing men’s passions as its march went on, caused a continued emigration from the old world to the new, for other purposes than those of wealth and plunder, till the poor pilgrim, crossed the deep waters to find a home where he might worship God as his own conscience taught, and where he might be free from persecuting power.

The Reformation emanating from Germany passed into England, and owing to the fortunate conjuncture of the times was there established; but it was not in the intention of her “hard ruled king” to part with his supremacy, and hence arose wide differences of opinion. Tyrant power wielded the sword and used it bloodily designing, not to silence but to extirpate religious opposition, and the sanguinary measures thence adopted, hardened the non-conformists in their faith. Persecution was opposed by bigotry; suffering was paralleled by obstinacy; till the temper of the age grew cruel, unrelenting, merciless: men’s minds were soured and all parties assuming the rigorous rule of uniformity, while they believed their own opinions right, held every departure from them, heresy and sin. In this state of things, our forefathers, tired of a fruitless struggle with the dominant power, and harassed by domestic sorrows, sought an asylum here. Heaven seems to strengthen the human faculties proportionally to the obstacles to be encountered: obstacles multiplied before our fathers, and were surmounted; Plymouth was settled and in the rock the tree of Liberty was rooted. Bound by their religious covenant, the Pilgrims bound themselves by a political constitution. By a charter to the Plymouth Council, under a royal grant, based on discovery and implied conquest, they came hither, but their best title was afterwards acquired by purchase from the natives of the soil, and subsequent efficient labour on the land. Hardly had they completed the outline of their town, before the indiscretion of their countrymen surrounded them with dangers. The Puritans in England held a reformation of the manners of the age, essential to the reformation of religion, and the sharp cruelty exercised upon them, induced them to assert this point with more than stoic rigour: this drove their opponents to the opposite extreme; they increased their luxury because it was attacked, deriding Puritan severity to cut off the growth of Puritan belief. With these opinions, some of the established church came over to New England in the first year after the Plymouth settlement commenced, and fixed themselves at Weymouth: others followed them, and chose Mount Wollaston for their plantation: their leading officers soon left them, and they, unlike their Plymouth neighbours, and unrestrained by conscientious virtue, gave themselves up to wild licentiousness. The natives, wronged by them, concerted deep laid plans for their destruction, but they, urged onward by an evil schemer, plunged deeper into reckless dissipation: gathered the flowers of spring to wreath their garlands, and like the victims of the Roman altars, knew not the fate that was impending over them: strange! That a few adventurers; on an unsettled coast; surrounded by tribes whom they had irritated; straitened for bare subsistence; and while a fearful storm was gathering, could listen to the siren voice of pleasure and drain the cup of idle wantonness: yes; on yon merry mountain the shout of revelry was heard, until the Plymouth Government, alarmed at its pernicious influence, suppressed the settlement.

History, my fellow citizens, must be impartial: if the fate of this unthinking crew awakens painful feeling, there is an honest pride in the remembrance that you are not their sons. Very different was the character of the successful founders of New England. Their energy soon settled Plymouth, and their example founded other colonies, which, under favourable charters, nourished a free and hardy population, growing and gradually spreading through this Western world. The Pilgrims of Plymouth and the primitive settlers of New England came over to enjoy unmolested, the exercise of a simple and unadulterated form of worship. To obtain this religious freedom, they left a land over which Nature has profusely scattered her most attractive graces: a land which has been beautifully called

“A precious stone set in the silver sea,”

Where were the tombs of their fathers and the homes of their kindred; where their earliest affections had grown, and their dearest recollections lingered: but it was no longer the home of Liberty; Astraea had deserted it, and left green Albion a barren waste girt with a ripple wall of regal tyranny. What was the beauty of the earth to them, deprived of liberty of conscience? For this they could forego this “Pleasant land of their nativity;” for this they could restrain those feelings which might not be entirely destroyed; estrange themselves from home, and friends and kindred to become acquainted with the rude savage of the wilderness. They brought with them the rigid principles for which they had contended, and the stern spirit which they had imbibed. Religion was the platform of their political state, and they respected its ordinances, and its ministers. These exerted a favourable influence upon the public morals, watching them with scrutinizing jealousy: the people possessed an operative suffrage in their church government, and were familiar with polemic controversy: they sifted doctrines and decided for themselves contested points: but in the innumerable differences of human opinion, it was not probable that uniformity could long exist among them. Uniformity was the rule which the opposing sects required in England before they emigrated, and their uncompromising disposition made it essential here. They had moreover, assumed mistaken definitions of religious liberty: zeal was the leading feature of the character: zeal which had induced such honourable sacrifices, impelled them to become intolerant and too uncharitable to those from whom they differed in speculative belief. This intolerance was owing to their early habits, to the partial knowledge which that age possessed, and to their danger as a community if different systems should gain ground. If there are dark shades in the portrait, they serve but to contrast its glowing colours and to enhance its general expression. It is man’s nature to mingle imperfection with his best efforts, and his past errors present an awful warning for the future.Accustomed to judge for themselves in matters of theology, they began to feel it as their right to judge in those of government. Acknowledging themselves to be English subjects, they drew nice distinctions in defining that subjection in order that it might not prejudice their privileges. With no nobility to check the growth of equal systems; no hierarchy to hold out a lure to clerical ambition, or to sustain royal pretensions to supremacy in religion; no courts supported by the forfeitures decreed by their own judges; they grew up in the enjoyment of republican rights. They constituted a republic under the jurisdiction of a magistrate, too distant to govern them effectively, and too profoundly ignorant of their importance, to straiten round them the cords of sovereignty. Their governor chosen by themselves was annually removable under the earlier plan of administration, and though afterwards lost, this right of choosing their own rulers had been exercised and was remembered. Their immediate executive was elective and thus responsible to them: indeed, the wise and virtuous men who took the lead in their affairs, encouraged the republican immunities of the people and supported the established charter rule of annual elections from their own conviction of its value; sensible

“That nobler is a limited command
“Given by the love of all your native land,
“Than a successive title, long and dark,
“Drawn from the mouldy rolls of Noah’s ark.”

To annual elections they soon added representation, and improved on the practice of the Mother Country, by equalizing the rule. This right of being represented was not granted by the first charters, but it was adopted shortly after their arrival, and in various periods of our history its value has been ascertained. Actual experience proved the necessity of distinguishing property and they fortunately held it unburthened with the incidents of feudal extortion and by admitted titles.

These rights were the elements of their high character; but there was another cause which added to their firmness and increased their privileges. From the earliest settlement, they cultivated good learning and useful science. The controversies of theology could not be maintained without sufficient learning to oppose the arguments of learned orders of the church, laboring for its preservation. Controversy had been for years familiar as the daily food of life. The reformation had in the different sides which States and Monarchs were compelled to take, opened the wide gates of speculative doubt, and proved to mankind that they could think for themselves. This point once gained, there was no limit to the interest which attended the investigation of religious questions; hence this interest extended throughout Europe, and spread itself over the whole surface of society. The study of theology became the surest path to influence and hour, and learning was sought for as a weapon of controversy. Inexpressibly anxious about their eternal welfare, our fathers taught their children to “search the scriptures,” and thus laid the corner stone of learning’s proudest temple, a reading and reflecting community. They established schools and colleges for public education. While New England was a sterile wilderness, the halls of Harvard rose to educate a line of excellent men, qualified to instruct their countrymen in wisdom: to seek her in her dearest treasuries: to dispense to mankind the inestimable benefits of knowledge and virtue.

“These are brighter, richer gems
“Than the stars of diadems.”

The collective character of a people is composed of the same mixture of differing qualities, which are discernible in individuals: it comprises the same liberality, generosity, honesty of intention, and the same stormy passions which when roused, shake the whole happiness of private life. Our forefathers were a patient and persevering people: their devotion was simple but earnest; their theories were circumscribed but conscientious; their morality was rigorous but practical. They were from necessity frugal; from their position circumspect; from their situation vigorous and hardy. Obliged alike to brave the savage and the European foe; acquainted equally with the implements of husbandry and with the weapons of war, they guarded the State till she had cleared the dangers of her infancy. Such was the early character of the people of New England. It shows a race of men fit to be free. History presents no parallel to such a people: mid all her records of blood stained laurels and successful wrong; mid all her tales of daring enterprise and reckless valour; of learned lawgivers and grasping conquerors, she shows no other state, originating in devotion and in liberty of thought; no other nation whose foundation was the pure worship of the living God.

In this character we may trace the progress of mind. Freedom opened the blossom of republican polity which was in aftertimes to ripen into admirable fruit. The early systems of elections, of representation and of property were improvements on the old modes; the former by limiting official power, increasing responsibility and equalizing popular participation in government; the latter by securing to industry, the profits it affords.

This character, which intercourse and habit, in the next generation had extended and confirmed, was not in good accordance with regal prerogative or Parliamentary supremacy. It became necessary, therefore, that the Mother Country should counteract and check it, by a plan of colonial policy.

The affairs of England claimed the whole attention of her cabinet, and these plantations were permitted to grow unmolested, until the overturn of ancient prejudices had changed the form of English government, and placed Cromwell at the helm. He first perceived the true importance of the colonies, and bent his mind upon them. The leader of the Puritans; he looked with favour on New England while ruling other colonies with rigour; but to sustain the war with Holland, he procured from Parliament the passage of the act of navigation, which formed the ground work of their future policy. After the restoration, the people lost many of their most peculiar privileges. The gloomy machinations of the last Stuarts, extended to America, and were mainly directed against the bold and independent spirit of New England. No longer empowered to elect their own executive, the colonists were holden at the mercy of the throne; a mercy, burthened with such hard conditions as completely changed its office. Violent and arbitrary maxims of government, carried into execution by rulers, strangers to the soil and its inhabitants, affecting the right of property, destroying the right of suffrage, subverting customs which had grown up with the people, were the “tender mercies,” which the “nursing mother” administered to her distressed offspring. The same eclipse which had overshadowed the Sun of British Liberty, portended total darkness to the world, but under the merciful decree of Providence it passed away, and left the orb more radiant than before. The British revolution saved mankind from projects deeply designed for their entire subjection, and forms another step in the advance of mind. During the reigns of the last Charles and James, the value of the American plantations began to be appreciated. The Mother Country framed a system of colonial policy, which depressed their energies and fettered their power. The Parliament during the Commonwealth had passed the act of navigation, and subsequently added to it acts of trade, by which the profits of the colonial commerce were made returnable through the British market. This commercial monopoly was vigorously enforced by one party and artfully evaded by the other, till at length the power of the crown extorted a partial obedience. The secret springs of the machine were avarice and fear. Profound and learned writers directed the attention of the British rulers, to the colonies. The propositions fundamental to their policy were, that plantations possessing unrestricted trade are prejudicial to the commerce of the Mother Country; and that on this principle, New England most of all obstructed English trade. It was therefore determined to check the growth and stop the progress of these provinces by means of the act of navigation, strengthened and supported by a succession of laws for regulating, or more properly, crippling the trade of the plantations by a continued chain of restrictions laid on their commerce. These restrictions were made to act equally upon the importation and the exportation of the Colonists, compelling them to purchase at a dearer rate than was primarily requisite, and to sell at a higher rate than was otherwise necessary, to prevent their underselling the English trader. The people of New England were experienced navigators, and the fisheries an unfailing school for seamen. The coast afforded large facilities for ship building, and the Colonies would assuredly improve them, whence would arise in case of insubordination, an American navy. The commercial monopoly was the instrument made use of to prevent all this danger to the “fast anchored isle.” Was it to be imagined that a people such as we have shown, habitually jealous of their liberties, would tamely and quietly submit to such restrictions? Was it to be supposed that a hardy and enterprising race of men, skilful in calculation and shrewdly sensitive to honest profit, would willingly consent to let the price of their labour, the gains of their industry slip from their hands? It would have been wholly foreign to the character of this people to have submitted without murmuring to this unfavourable scheme. They did not willingly submit: they lost the first charter for their opposition; they lost that right of choosing their own executive, which had so long protected them in freedom: they were subjected to a tyrannical governor, brought up and nourished in the Stuart projects: all this they bore, before they would submit to this restrictive plan, and when at last, they were compelled to avow obedience, it was conveyed to an act of their own legislature, which imposed the burthen. From the Restoration in 1660, this plan of curbing the Colonies was enforced by England and evaded in America, till in the course of time it became the fountain of our revolution. When the provinces had consented to it, their obedience was as literal as might have been expected, and notwithstanding its rigorous operation, they prospered, for their commodities and produce were immensely profitable to the monopolist, and thence in great demand; and this may prove the interested wisdom of the framers of this scheme; for if the sun “shorn of his beams” yet shone so brightly, his concentrated power might be dangerous. The Colonies increased and prospered, their regulation notwithstanding, but their prosperity ran counter to the fundamental proposition of English doctrines, and in consequence it became necessary to weave a net about America, which should completely foil her struggles and be sufficiently elastic to increase with her increasing strength. To effect this scheme, some genius, invented the plan for raising a revenue from America by Parliamentary taxation without representation: a revenue superadded to the restrictive, exclusive, oppressive system of commercial monopoly: an union of which the offspring was “uncompensated slavery.” My fellow citizens it was this scheme of “exquisite policy” originating either in ministerial embarrassments abroad or in high reaching ambition at home, which brought about our glorious revolution. The people saw that the point most settled in the British constitution, that taxation must not exist without representation, was annihilated by the British policy. It was this violation on the British part which caused the revolution, and was followed by the revolutionary war.

The revolution commenced with the resistance made to an order from the superior court of this province for writs of assistance to carry into execution the acts of trade. These writs of assistance indicated the first speck in the horizon, round which the clouds collected, to burst in thunder over Britain and to purify the political atmosphere of the world. The revolution, that total change in the feelings of the Colonies towards the Mother Country, was completed by the Declaration of Independence, which was ratified by a successful conflict. The Colonies together with the parent kingdom were coming out victoriously from the war with France, which had greatly added to their military glory and to the national burthens. The provinces in America had borne an active and an honourable share in the labours and successes of the war; thereby becoming more closely bound to the parent state than ever; but their success alarmed the British ministry by awakening their fears, that the checks on the free spirit of the Americans had been diminished by the destruction of the French power. They resumed their monopoly and added to it the scheme for revenue at the very moment they lessened the means of meeting their demands. Bill after bill was fulminated by Parliament with the double motive of extorting revenue to meet the pecuniary difficulties of the kingdom, and of breaking the spirit of the Americans. It is a tale of wrongs too melancholy for this hour. After long suffering, patient forbearance, and glorious resistance, America determined to be free. Passions were roused to their extremes, and British pride pledged to the contest: the ministry alarmed and angered, drew the sword upon their countrymen, resolved to strain every nerve for ultimate success.

In this situation, when the British government had decided to exert the power of the empire, and war hung lowering darkly over America; the Declaration of Independence was issued and received with acclamation throughout the Colonies.—The arm of Tyranny was palsied by the blow, it cleft his Lion helm in twain, and struck the feeble faulchion [one-handed, single-edged sword] from his hand. The Colonies had shaken off the chains by which they had been manacled, and owned no longer an imperious master; they told the world that they were free; and in the reasons they assigned for this assertion of their freedom are to be found the soundest principles of public justice, the boldest theories of human rights. These are the reasons why this sublime instrument marks an advancement of the human mind; these are the claims, which have won for this day the annual tribute of a nation’s joy; these are the sacred ties, which hold together these increasing states in the strict bonds of union and of harmony.

The effects of this Declaration were at the time when it was issued, most favourable. Other powers lent their assistance to an independent nation, contending for its existence, which they could not have done to subject colonies, conflicting with a master whom they acknowledged: at home the public resources were concentrated: an object to be gained and defined. Through fields of hard fought battle, through patient toil and painful suffering, the object has been gained: America is free: the valour of her sons, the wisdom of her statesmen, nerved by the glorious cause for which they fought, have made and kept her free.

The effects of this Declaration are now everywhere visible. Look through the country and behold our accumulated blessings: see Nature robed in beauty; fertile in rich luxuriance: see health and plenty everywhere around you: see a dense and settled population stretching from the cold regions of the North to the exuberant valleys of the South; from the prolific intervals of the East to the flourishing prairies of the West: see your shores washed by two oceans and the soil your own: Are not these motives for rejoicing? The welcome of this day throughout the land gives our reply.

But beside the general national reasons for rejoicing in the benefits resulting from this proud day, there are others, fellow citizens, which affect us peculiarly. We cannot forget that the great name, which leads the illustrious catalogue upon that venerated instrument, went forth from here. I would speak with diffidence of Mr. Hancock. Common praise would not express his virtues. His character was compounded of mingled gravity and splendor. Accustomed to the luxuries of life, Fortune clothed him with her mantle of elegant refinement and poured her gifts upon him in a golden shower. With every prospect of pre-eminence under the ancient aristocratic system, commanding influence and sure of honours, it was no common strain of patriotism that could put by the glittering bait which courted him. Dignified, graceful, affable, and eloquent, he seemed to win involuntary favour, while to these outward excellences, he added the sterner virtues which the time required. Liberal, charitable, generous, his fortune was his country’s and his wealth made for the poor. Generosity was the flower of his life, and whether actively exercised in freely bestowing or negatively in giving up emoluments it bloomed in equal brilliancy. His splendid qualities were perhaps displayed too publicly ; there might be something too shining in his mode of life; but this splendor was the growth of early habit and the overflowing of a liberal nature. It is difficult to lay aside the customs which have grown with us from childhood; self denial is a hard and trying thing; but Mr. Hancock was willing to put everything at stake: fortune, honours, safety, life itself were to him worthless in comparison with Republican Liberty. His soul was comprehensive and his spirit bold as the character which records his signature: and if persevering aid to the right cause in sickness, sorrow, sacrifice are honourable; then is Mr. Hancock’s life entitled to our highest panegyric.

While he was thus conspicuous in the front rank of the advocates of liberty and law, beside him stood a Roman patriot. Samuel Adams was certainly an extraordinary character: a man whom few resemble. We should be inclined to think him rather of the school of the younger Brutus, or bred in the faith of Cato, than an inhabitant of a modern colony; rather taught by the Scottish Covenanters than by the courtly statesmen in the reign of the third George; cotemporary rather with Standish and Carver than with Bernard and Hutchinson. There was “a daily beauty I in his life” which calls for our warmest approbation. His public course exhibited a firmness and decision which were indeed remarkable: he was no half way man; reform with him required total, final, essential, alteration. Poor as he was, it was idle to attempt to bribe such a man: to the allurements of Fortune he was blind as her own fabled divinity; but to the real charms of Liberty he paid his homage with clear unclouded vision. In private he was conciliating and benevolent; in public strenuous and severe. He could contemplate the gathering clouds with satisfaction; could see a glory in the fearful struggle; could moralize upon the day of battle: there was, it may be, something too rugged in his policy, but it was the obstinacy of masculine virtue. He was one of those men who effect great ends, and that he did contribute much to the event, which distinguishes this day, is clearly unquestionable. Differing widely in character from Mr. Hancock he was equally useful to the cause of American freedom: their names were inscribed together on the same record of proscription and glow with equal grandeur on the same scroll of fame.

There was a third citizen of this soil: alas! too quickly taken. Educated to benefit his species; gifted with the fascinating, the appalling powers of oratory; compared by those who heard his magic speech to the splendid orator of Rome:–God in his own wise designs did not permit him to see the light of that bright hour, which gave our Declaration of Independence, but “his mind’s eye” beheld it as Moses from the top of Pisgah saw the land which he might not inhabit. His life was spent in arduous professional labour, and he bore an honourable share in that decree which proved the triumph of eternal justice even in the very midst of massacre. This severe labour, added to the toils he bore to aid his country, cost Mr. Quincy life: let his memory live ever here; bloom ever in the spot which bears his name: it is not too much to say of him in the language of the poet,

“O’er him whose doom your virtues grieve,
“Aerial forms shall sit at eve
“And bend the pensive head:
“And fallen to save his injur’d land
“Immortal Honour’s awful hand
“Shall point his lonely bed.”

In attempting to award a feeble measure of justice to the memory of these eminent men, it is not designed to assign to them exclusive praise. The results of our Revolution produced a company of patriots unsurpassed in earthly annals; men wise and bold in counsel and the field. The majority of that vigorous race have gone to brighter climes; a few, alas, how few! Remain to greet this morning; blessed by the wishes of their country: blessed by the sight of national prosperity beyond their fondest hopes:–the rest we trust are joined again with Washington, above the reach of time.

The last, the best effect of this immortal instrument, has been upon the nations of the earth. The lessons which it diffuses have not been lost, have not died away unheard. Crushed, trampled on, oppressed, Liberty rises by her own resistless energy, to renew the struggle for the dearest rights of man. The herald of those rights has spoken to the world. France has heard the sound, but Despotism has benumbed her faculties and Cruelty has stained her proud escutcheon. Spain has heard the sound and tried to loose the chains of ancient days, but Superstition holds her down as with a spell of sorcery. Greece has heard the sound and sprung in armour from her slothful couch, to ring the loud larum [alarm] peal of war, and blood, and battle: yes, my fellow citizens, the subtle fluid is at work; the waters are rising, and they will pour the great tide of liberty throughout the globe: it already rolls in the Archipelago, it mingles in the billows of the mighty Amazon.

Sermon – Fasting – 1825, Massachusetts

Francis Wayland (1976-1865) graduated from Union College in 1813. He served as President of Brown University (1827-1855), where he also taught psychology, political economy, and ethics. These sermons were delivered on April 7, 1825.







First Baptist Meeting House in Boston,

On Thursday, April 7, 1825.








Published by request of the Society.












            The season has arrived, my brethren, when in conformity with the usages of our forefathers, we are assembled to supplicate the blessing of God on the labours of the advancing year.  Custom has permitted that on such occasions, the minister of religion, digressing somewhat from the path of his ordinary duty, should exhibit to his hearers, some truths not expressly revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He is allowed to select a subject, which may be rather of national interest, and is commanded to abstain only from such discussion, as would enkindle those feelings of party animosity, to which a free people, in the present imperfect condition of human nature, must always be liable.

            If, then, I should on this day direct your attention to a subject somewhat unlike those which you are accustomed to hear from this sacred place, I trust the example of wiser and better men will plead for me an apology.

            But I find in the occasion that has called us together, an apology, with which I must confess myself far better satisfied.  We have come here as citizens of the United States, to implore the blessing of God upon our common country.  At such a time, it cannot be unsuitable to inquire, how may the interests of that country be promoted?  The destinies of this, are intimately connected with those of other nations, and it surely becomes us to ascertain the duties which that connection imposes upon us.  I remember that on every question decided in this community, each one of you has an influence.  I am addressing an assembly, whose voice is heard through the medium of its representatives, not only in our halls of legislation, and in our cabinet, but throughout the legislatures and the cabinets of the civilized world.  In the attempt, then, to enlighten you upon any of those great questions, on which the well-being of our country, as well as other countries, is virtually interested, I seem to myself to be discharging a duty not improperly devolving upon a profession, which is expected to watch with sedulous anxiety, every change that can have a bearing upon the moral or religious interests of a community.  Impressed with these considerations, I shall proceed to offer you some reflections, on what appears to be the present intellectual and political condition of the nations of Europe; the relations we sustain to them; and the duties which devolve upon us, in the consequence of those relations.

            I shall this morning direct your attention to some reflections upon THE PRESENT INTELLECTUAL AND POLITICAL CONDITION OF THE NATIONS OF EUROPE.

                You are doubtless aware, that society throughout Christendom, has been undergoing very striking alterations since the era of the Reformation, and the invention of the printing press.  The effects of this new impulse, which was then given to the human mind, have been every where visible.  The attempt to delineate it would require a volume, instead of a paragraph.  It will only be possible here to state, that it has been produced by the more universal diffusion of the means of information; it has been characterized by more unrestrained liberty of thinking; and has every where resulted in elevating the rank, and improving the condition, of what are generally denominated the lower classes of society.

            But it must be obvious to all of you, ht especially within the last fifty years, the intellectual character of the middling and lower classes of society throughout the civilized world has materially improved, and that the process of improvement is at present going forward with accelerated rapidity.  A taste for that sort of reading, which requires considerable reflection, and even some acquaintance with the abstract sciences, is every day becoming more widely disseminated.  And not only is the number of news papers multiplying beyond any former precedent, but it is found necessary to enlist in their service a far greater portion of literary talent than at any other period.[i]

            For this increase of the reading and thinking population of Europe at this particular time, many causes may be assigned.  It is owing, in part, to that slow but certain progress, which the human mind always makes after it has once commenced the career of improvement.  It may also have been considerably accelerated by the various wars, which have of late so frequently desolated the continent.  The momentous events to which every campaign gave birth, have quickened the desire of intelligence in every class of society, and taught men more or less to reflect upon the principles which led to so universal commotions.  And besides this, the range of information among those attached to the army must have been materially enlarged by visiting other countries, and becoming in a considerable degree acquainted with their inhabitants, and familiar with their institutions.

            And her truth obliges us to state, that this melioration owes much of its late advancement to the pious zeal of Protestant Christians.  Desirous to extend the means of salvation to the whole human race, these benevolent men have labored with perseverance and success, not only to circulate the Bible, but to enable men to read it.  Hence have arisen the British and Foreign Bible Society, the British and Foreign School Society, the Baptist Irish Society, the multiplied free schools, and the innumerable Sabbath schools, which are so peculiarly the glory of the present age of the church.  And surely it is delightful to witness the disciples of Him, who went about doing good, thus girding themselves to the work of redeeming their fellow men from ignorance and sin.  O it is a goodly thing to behold the rich man pouring forth from his abundance, and the poor man casting in his mite; the old man directing by counsel, and the young man seconding him by exertion; the matron visiting the prison, and the young woman instructing the Sabbath school; and all pledging themselves, each one to the other, that, God helping them, this world shall be the better for their having lived in it.  The effects of these exertions are every year becoming more distinctly visible.  In a short time, if the church is faithful to herself, and faithful to her God, what are now called the lower classes of society will cease to exist; men and women will be reading and thinking beings; and the word canaille, will no longer be applied to any portion of the human race within the limits of civilization.

            In connection with these facts, we would remark, that in consequence of this general diffusion of intelligence, nations are becoming vastly better acquainted with the physical, moral and political conditions of each other.  Whatever of any moment is transacted in the legislative assemblies of one country, is now very soon known, not merely to the rulers, but also to the people of every other country.  Nay, an interesting occurrence of any nature cannot transpire in an insignificant town of Europe or America, without finding its way, through the medium of the daily journals, to the eyes and ears of all Christendom.  Every man must now be, in a considerable degree, a spectator of the doings of the world, or he is soon very far in the rear of the intelligence of the day.  Indeed, he has only to read a respectable newspaper, and he may be informed of the discoveries in the arts, the discussions in the senates, and the bearings of public opinion all over the world.

            The reasons for all this, as we have intimated, may chiefly be found in that increased desire of information, which characterizes the mass of society in the present age.  Intelligence of every kind, and specially political information, has become an article of profit; and when once this is the case, there can be no doubt that it will be abundantly supplied.  Besides this, it is important to remark, that the art of navigation has been within a few years materially improved, and commercial relations have become vastly more extensive.  The establishment of packet ships between the two continents has brought London and Paris as near to us as Pittsburgh and New-Orleans.  There is every reason to believe, that within the next half century, steam navigation will render the communication between the ports of Europe and America as frequent, and almost as regular, as that by ordinary mails.  The commercial houses of every nation are establishing their agencies in the principle cities of every other nation, and thus binding together the people by every tie of interest; while at the same time they are furnishing innumerable channels, by which information may be circulated among every class of the community.

            Hence it is that the moral influence, which nations are exerting upon each other, is greater than it has been at any antecedent period in the history of the world.  The institutions of one country, are becoming known almost of necessity to every other country.  Knowledge provokes to comparison, and comparison leads to reflection.  The fact that others are happier than themselves, prompts men to inquire whence this difference proceeds, and how their own melioration may be accomplished.  By simply looking upon a free people, an oppressed people instinctively feel that they have inalienable rights; and they will never afterwards be at rest, until the enjoyment of these rights is guaranteed to them.  Thus one form of government, which in any pre-eminent degree promotes the happiness of man, is gradually but irresistibly disseminating the principles of its constitution, and from the very fact of its existence, calling into being those trans of thought, which must in the end revolutionize every government within the sphere of its influence, under which the people are oppressed.

            And thus is it that the field in which mind may labour, has now become wide as the limits of civilization.  A doctrine advanced by one man, if it have any claim to interest, is soon known to every other man.  The movement of one intellect, now sets in motion the intellects of millions.  We may now calculate upon effects not upon a state or a people, but upon the melting, amalgamating mass of human nature.  Man is now the instrument which genius wields at its will; it touches a chord of the human heart, and nations vibrate in unison.  And thus he who can rivet the attention of a community upon an elementary principle hitherto neglected in politics or morals, or who can bring an acknowledged principle to bear upon an existing abuse, may, by his own intellectual might, with only the assistance of the press, transform the institutions of an empire or a world.

            In many respects, the nations of Christendom collectively are becoming somewhat analogous to our own Federal Republic.  Antiquated distinctions are breaking away, and local animosities are subsiding.  The common people of different countries are knowing each other better, esteeming each other by various manifestations of reciprocal good will.  It is true, every nation has still its separate boundaries and its individual interests; but the freedom of commercial intercourse is allowing those interests to adjust themselves to each other, and thus rendering the causes of collision of vastly less frequent occurrence.  Local questions are becoming of less, and general questions of greater importance.  Thanks be to God, men have at last begun to understand the rights, and feel for the wrongs of each other.  Mountains interposed do not so much make enemies of nations.  Let the trumpet of alarm be sounded, and its notes are now heard by every nation whether of Europe or America.  Let a voice borne on the feeblest breeze tell that the rights of man are in danger, and it floats over valley and mountain, across continent and ocean, until it has vibrated on the ear of the remotest dweller in Christendom.  Let the arm of oppression be raised to crush the feeblest nation on earth, and there will be heard every where, if not the shout of defiance, at least the deep-toned murmur of implacable displeasure.  It is the cry of aggrieved, insulted, much-abused man.  It is human nature waking in her might from the slumber of ages, shaking herself from the dust of antiquated institutions, girding herself for the combat, and going forth conquering and to conquer; and woe unto the man, woe unto the dynasty, woe unto the party, and woe unto the policy, on whom shall fall the scath of her blighting indignation.

            Now it must be evident, that this progress in intellectual cultivation must be operating important changes in the political condition of the nations of Europe.  This moral power has been applied almost exclusively to one portion of the social mass.  The rulers remain very much as they were half a century ago; but the people have advanced with a rapidity, of which the former history of the world furnishes us with no similar example.  The relations which once subsisted between the parties having changed, the institutions of society must change with them.  A form of government to be stable, must be adapted to the intellectual and moral condition of the governed; and when from any cause it has ceased to be so adapted, the time has come when it must inevitably be modified or subverted.  These remarks seem to us to apply with special force to the present condition of many of the nations of Europe.  I will proceed then, and remark some of the changes which this progress in intellectual improvement is effecting in their political condition.

            II.  We shall commence this part of our subject by remarking, that the various forms of government under which society has existed may, with sufficient accuracy, be reduced to two; governments of will, and governments of law.

            A government of will supposes that there are created two classes of society, the rulers and the ruled, each possessed of different and very dissimilar rights.  It supposes all power to be vested by divine appointment in the hands of the rulers; that they alone may say under what form of governments the people shall live; that law is nothing other than an expression of their will; and that it is the ordinance of Heaven that such a constitution should continue unchanged to the remotest generations; and that to all this, the people are bound to yield passive and implicit obedience.  Thus say the Congress of Sovereigns, which has been styled the Holy Alliance:  “All useful and necessary changes ought only to emanate from the free will and intelligent conviction of those, whom God has made responsible for power.”  You are well aware, that on principles such as these rest most of the governments of continental Europe.

            The government of law rests upon principles precisely the reverse of all this.  It supposes that there is but one class of society, and that this class is the people; that all men are created equal, and therefore that civil institutions are voluntary associations, of which the sole object should be to promote the happiness of the whole.  It supposes the people to have a perfect right to select that form of government under which they shall live, and to modify it at any subsequent time, as they shall think desirable.  Supposing all power to emanate from the people, it considers the authority of rulers purely a delegated authority, to be exercised in all cases according to a written code, which code is nothing more than an authentic expression of the people’s will.  It teaches that the ruler is nothing more than the intelligent organ of enlightened public opinion, and declares that if he ceases to be so, he shall be a ruler no longer.  Under such a government may it with truth be said of law, that “her seat is the bosom” of the people, “her voice the harmony” of society; “all men in every station do her reverence; the very least as feeling her care, and the very greatest as not exempted from her power; and though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy.”  I need not add, that our own is an illustrious example of the government of law.

            Now which of these two is the right notion of government, I need to stay to inquire.  It is sufficient for my purpose to remark, that whenever men have become enlightened by the general diffusion of intelligence, they have universally preferred the government of law.  The doctrines of what is called legitimacy, have not been found to stand the scrutiny of unrestrained examination.  And besides this, the love of power is as inseparable from the human bosom as the love of life.  Hence men will never rest satisfied with any civil institutions, which confer exclusively upon a part of society, that power which they believe should justly be vested in the whole; and hence it is evident that no government can be secure from the effects of increasing intelligence, which is not conformed in its principles to the nature of the human heart, and which does not provide for the exercise of this principle, so inseparable from the nature of man.

            We see then that the people under arbitrary governments, whenever they have become enlightened, must begin to desire some change in the existing institutions.  On the contrary, it is not unreasonable to suppose, that to such change the rulers would everywhere be opposed.  Instances have been rare in the history of man, in which the possessor of power, has surrendered it to anything but physical force.  The rulers everywhere will, to the utmost of their ability, maintain the existing institutions.  This is not conjecture.  The Holy Alliance has declared its determination to bring its whole power to bear upon any point, from which there was reason to fear the love of change, or in other words the love of liberty, would be disseminated.  They have announced that “the powers have an undoubted right to assume an hostile attitude, in relation to those States in which the overthrow of governments may operate as an example.”

            You perceive then, that if the people in Europe have become dissatisfied with the government of will, and if the rulers have determined to support it, the present progress of intelligence must be rapidly dividing the whole community into two great classes.  The one is composed of the monarchy, the aristocracy and the army, and in general of all those whose wealth, whose rank, or whose influence depend on the continuance of the existing system.  The other is composed of the middling and lower classes of society, of the men who understand the nature of liberal institutions, and those who are groaning under the weight of civil and religious oppression.  The question at issue is, whether a nation shall be governed by men of its choice, or by men whose only title to rule is derived from hereditary descent; whether laws shall be made for the benefit of the whole or a part; and whether they shall be the expression of a monarch’s will, or the unbiased decisions of an enlightened community.  It is a question between precedent and right; between old notions and new ones; between rulers and ruled; between governments and people.  It has already agitated Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Germany, Prussia, and South America.  Hence you see that the parties formed in those nations have all taken their names from their attachments to one or the other of these notions of government.  Hence we hear of constitutionalists and royalists, of liberals and anti-liberals, of legitimates and reformers.  It is in a word the same question, though modified by circumstances, which wrought out the revolution under Charles I., and in which the best blood of this country was shed at Lexington and at Bunker-Hill, at Saratoga, and at Yorktown.

            But we cannot pass from this subject without remarking another fact, which renders the present state of Europe doubly interesting to every friend of the religion of Jesus Christ.  You are well aware that what is called Christianity is at the present day exhibited to the world under two very different forms.  The one supposes man amenable to no created being for his religious opinions, and that provided he do not disturb the peace of society, he is perfectly at liberty to worship God after the dictates of his own conscience.  It supposes, moreover, the Bible to be a sufficient and the only rule of faith and practice; a book of ultimate facts in morals, which is to be put in the hands of everyone, which everyone is at liberty to interpret for himself, and that with his interpretation neither any man nor body of men has any right to interfere.  The other form, which also professes to be Christianity, supposes, on the contrary, that religious opinion must be subject to the will of man; and that for disbelieving the religion of the State, the citizen is justly liable to fine, disfranchisement, imprisonment, and death.  It denies to man to right of reading the scriptures, and substitutes in their place monkish legends of fabulous miracles.  It stamps the traditions and the decisions of men with the authority of a revelation from heaven, and thus places conscience, by far the strongest of those principles which agitate the human bosom and direct the human conduct, entirely within the control of ambitious statesmen and avaricious priests.  You perceive I have alluded to the Protestant and Catholic forms of Christianity, as they generally exist on the continent of Europe.

            These systems, as you must be convinced, depend upon principles very different the one from the other.  The one pleads for the universal circulation of the scriptures; the other, from its highest authority, forbids it.  The one labours for the improvement of the lower classes of society, and lives and moves and has its being in the atmosphere of religious liberty; the other has never been able to retain its influence over the mind any longer than whilst enforcing its doctrines by relentless persecution.  And hence are the scriptures supposed to have designated this church by that awful appellation, “drunk with the blood of the saints.” Here then we see that the adherents of these two systems must be at issue on that question, of all others dearest to man, the question of liberty of conscience.

            But it is here of importance to observe, how nearly the line which is drawn in this division coincides with the other on the question of civil liberty, of which we have just spoken.  The government of will has never been able to support itself without an alliance with the ecclesiastical power.  Having no hold upon the understanding or upon the affections of man, it must control his conscience or it could not be upheld.  And on the contrary, the Catholic religion cannot carry its principles into practice without the assistance of the civil arm.  The State needs the anathema of the Church to check the spirit of inquiry, and the Church needs the physical power of the State, to silence by force when it cannot convince by argument.  These systems are, as you see, the natural allies of each other; and hence in fact have they always been found very closely united.  Hence is it that we behold at present among the sovereigns of the Holy Alliance, so evident an attempt to re-establish the influence of the papal see; and hence, to use the language of the Christian Observer,[ii] do we perceive throughout Europe the mournful advances of that superstitious and persecuting church, whose much abused power we had hoped was crumbling to decay.”

            And on the contrary, it is equally evident, that popular institutions are inseparably connected with Prostestant Christianity.  Both rest upon the same fundamental principle, the absolute freedom of inquiry.  Neither accepts of any support not derived from the suffrages of a free, intelligent, and virtuous community.  Though each is perfectly independent, yet neither could long exist without giving birth to the other.  And here, were it necessary, it would not be difficult to show that the doctrines of Protestant Christianity are the sure, nay, the only bulwark of civil freedom.  A survey of the history of Europe since the era of the Reformation would teach us, that man has never correctly understood nor successfully asserted his rights, until he has learned them from the Bible; and still more, that those nations have always enjoyed the most perfect freedom, who have been most thoroughly imbued with the doctrines of Jesus Christ.  But a discussion of this sort would lead us too far from the range of this discourse.  Enough has, we trust, been said to convince you, that the very existence of Protestantism in Europe, is at stake on the issue of the question, which appears so soon about to agitate that continent.

            And hence if the human mind only continues to advance with its present ratio of improvement, a general division of the people in Christendom seems inevitable.  The questions at issue are the most momentous that can be presented, and the most active principles of the human heart must oblige every man to rank himself on the one side or the other.  It is the question, whether man shall surrender up into the hands of other men those rights, which he holds immediately from God; whether, in fact, he shall bow to nothing but law, or tremble at the frown of a despot.  It is whether the human mind shall advance steadily onward in the career of improvement,  or whether it shall lose all that it has gained, and sink back again into the gloom of monkish superstition.  On the issue of this controversy depends the question, whether the light of divine revelation shall shine far and wide over our benighted world, pointing out to our fellow men the path to everlasting life; or whether that light shall be extinguished, and the generations which follow, the prey to a designing priesthood, shall be led in ignorance to everlasting woe.

            Such seem to us to be some of the circumstances attending the present political condition of Europe.  That two parties are forming in every country, you have abundant evidence; it is equally evident that the question on which they are divided is of the utmost magnitude; and that it is in every nation substantially the same.

            In concluding, it may be worth our while to remark very briefly, the condition and the prospects of these two opposite parties.

            1.  As to their present state, we may observe, that the one has enlisted the greatest numbers, while the other wields the most effective force.  The one comprises the lower and middling classes of society, which are of course by far the most numerous, and the other the rulers, and their immediate dependents.  The physical power of any nation always resides with the governed, and it is the governed who are the friends of free institutions.  But it is to be remarked, that the millions who desire reform are scattered abroad over immense tracts of country, each one by his own fireside, without concert, and destitute of the means for organized operation; on the contrary, the force of the rulers is always collected, and can at any moment be brought to bear upon any portion of territory, in which there might appear the least movement towards revolution.

            But the friends of popular institutions are opposed, in every nation, by more than the force of their own rulers.  Whilst they are powerful only at home, the rulers are able to bring all their forces to bear upon a single point in any part of the civilized world.  To accomplish this purpose, seems the principal design of the Holy Alliance; and hence they have pledged the physical force of the whole to each other, whenever the question shall be agitated in any country, on which depends the rights of the people.

            2.  If we compare their prospects, we shall find that the power of the popular party is increasing with amazing rapidity.  Nations are already flocking to its standard.  Fifty years ago and it could be hardly said to exist, only as the voice of indignant freemen was heard in yonder hall, the far famed “cradle of liberty.”  From that moment, its progress has been right onward.  A continent has since declared itself free.  In the old world, the principles of liberty are becoming more universally received, more thoroughly understood, and more ably supported.  Education is becoming every day more widely disseminated; and every man, as he learns to think, ranks himself with the friends of intellectual improvement.  The trains of thought are already at work, which must operate important modifications in the social edifice, or that edifice, undermined from its foundations, must crumble into ruin.

            And thus from these very causes, the other party is rapidly declining.  Nations are leaving it.  The people are loathing it.  It cannot ultimately succeed, until it has changed the ordinances of heaven.  It cannot prosper, unless it can check that tendency to improvement, with which God endowed man at the first moment of his creation.  Every report of oppression weakens it.  Every Sabbath School, every Bible Society, nay, every mode of circulating knowledge weakens it.  And thus, unless by some combined and convulsive effort it should for a little while recover its power, it may almost be expected that within the present age it will fall before the resistless march of public opinion, and give place everywhere to governments of law.










          Pursuing the train of thought which was commenced this morning, I shall proceed to consider the relation which this country sustains to the nations of Europe, and some of the duties which devolve upon us in consequence of this relation.

            I.  Let us consider the relation which this country sustains to the nations of Europe.  Here we shall observe in the first place, that this country is evidently at the head of the popular party throughout the civilized world.  The statement of a few facts will render this remark sufficiently evident.

            1.  This nation owes its existence to a love of those very principles for which the friends of liberty are now contending.  Rather than bow to oppression, civil or ecclesiastical, our fathers fled to a land of savages, determined to clear away in an inhospitable wilderness, one spot on the face of the earth where man might be free.  Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem.

            2.  This nation first proclaimed these principles, as the only proper basis of a constitution of government.  Here was it first declared by a legislative assembly:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

            3.  This nation first contended for those principles with perfect success.  In other countries, attempts had been made to re-model the institutions of government.  But in some cases, the attempt was arrested in its outset by overwhelming force; in others, the first movement had been succeeded by anarchy; anarchy gave place to military despotism, and this at last yielded to a restoration of the former dynasty.  In our country first was the contest commenced in simplicity of heart, for the rights of man; and when these were secured, here alone did the contest cease.  Since our revolution, other nations have followed our example, and many more are preparing to follow it.  But when the most glorious success shall have attended their struggle for liberty, they are but our imitators; and the greatest praise of any subsequent revolution must be that it has resembled our own.  Our heroic struggle, its perfect success, its virtuous termination, have riveted the eyes of the people of Europe specially upon us, and they cannot now be averted.  To us do they look when they would see what man can do; and while sighing under their oppressions, yet hope to be free.

            4.  And lastly, our country has given to the world the first ocular demonstration, not only of the practicability, but also of the unrivalled superiority of a popular form of government.  It was not long since fashionable to ridicule the idea, that a people could govern themselves.  The science of rulers was supposed to consist in keeping the people in ignorance, in restraining them by force, and amusing them by shows.  The people were treated like a ferocious monster, whose keepers could only be secure while its dungeon was dark, and its chain massive.  But the example of our own country is rapidly consigning these notions to merited desuetude.  It is teaching the world that the easiest method of governing an intelligent people is, to allow them to govern themselves.  It is demonstrating that the people, so far from being the enemies, are the best, nay, the natural friends of wholesome institutions.  It is showing that kings, and nobles, and standing armies, and religious establishments, are at best only very useless appendages to a form of government.  It is showing to the world that every right an be perfectly protected, under rulers elected by the people; that  government can be stable with no other support than the affections of its citizens; that a people can be virtuous without an established religion; and more than this, that just such a government as it was predicted could no where exist but in the brain of a benevolent enthusiast, has actually existed for half a century, acquiring strength and compactness and solidity with every year’s duration.  And it is manifest that nowhere else have been so free, so happy, so enlightened, or so enterprising, and nowhere have the legitimate objects of civil institutions been so triumphantly attained.  Against facts such as these it is difficult to argue; and you see they furnish the friends of free institutions with more than an answer to all the theories of legitimacy.

            It is unnecessary to pursue this subject further.  You are doubtless convinced that this country stands linked by a thousand ties to the popular sentiment of Europe.  We have no sympathies with the rulers.  The principles, in support of which they are allied, are diametrically opposed to the very spirit of our constitution.  All our sympathies are with the people; for we are all of us the people.  And not only are we thus amalgamated with them in feeling, we are manifestly at the head of that feeling.  We first promulgated their sentiments, we taught them their rights, we first contended successfully for their principles; and for fifty years we have furnished incontrovertible evidence that their principles are true.  These principles have already girded us with Herculean strength, in the very infancy of our empire, and have given us political precedence of governments, which had been established on the old foundation, centuries before our continent was discovered.  And now what nation will be second in the new order of things, is yet to be decided; but the providence of God has already announced, that, if true to ourselves, we shall be inevitably first.

            Now to say that any country is at the head of popular sentiment, is only to say in other words that it is in her power to direct that sentiment.  You are then prepared to proceed with me, and remark, in the next place, that it devolves on this country to lead forward the present movement of public opinion, to freedom and independence.

              It devolves on us to sustain and to chasten the love of liberty among the friends of reform in other nations.  It is not enough that the people everywhere desire a change.  The subversion of a bad government is by no means synonymous with the establishment of a better.  A people must know what it is to be free; they must have learned to reverence themselves, and bow implicitly to the principles of right, or nothing can be gained by a change of institutions.  A constitution written on paper is utterly worthless, unless it be also written on the hearts of a people.  Unless men have learned to govern themselves, they may be plunged into all the horrors of civil war, and yet emerge from the most fearful revolution, a lawless nation of sanguinary slaves.  But if this country remain happy, and its institutions free, it will render the common people of other countries acquainted with the fundamental principles of the science of government; this knowledge will silently produce its practical result, and year after year will insensibly train them to freedom.

            But suppose that the spirit of freedom have been sustained to its issue, the blow to have been struck, and either by concession or force, the time to have arrived when the institutions of the old world are to be transformed; then will the happiness of the civilized world be again connected most intimately with the destinies of this country.  Ancient constitutions having been abolished, no new ones must be adopted by almost every nation in Europe.  The old foundations will have been removed; it will still remain to be decided on what foundations the social edifice shall rest.  From the relation we now sustain to the friends of free institutions, as well as from all the cases of revolution which have lately occurred,[iii] it is evident that to this nation they will all look for precedent and example.  Thus far our institutions have conferred on man all that any form of government was ever expected to bestow.  Should the grand experiment which we are now making on the human character succeed, there can be no doubt that other governments, following our example, will be formed on the principles of equality of right.  To illustrate the subject by an example;—who does not see, that if France had been illuminated in the era of her revolution by the light which our fifty years’ experience has shed upon the world, unstained with the blood of three millions of her citizens, she might now have been rejoicing in a government of law?

            We have thus far spoken only of the effects which this country might produce upon the politics of Europe, simply by her example.  It is not impossible, however, that she may be called to exert an influence still more direct on the destinies of man.  Should the rulers of Europe make war upon the principles of our constitution, because its existence “may operate as an example;” or should a universal appeal be made to arms, on the question of civil and religious liberty;—it is manifest that we must take no secondary part in the controversy.  The contest will involve the civilized world, and the blow will be struck which must decide the fate of man for centuries to come.

            Then will the hour have arrived, when uniting with herself the friends of freedom throughout the world, this country must breast herself to the shock of congregated nations.  Then will she need the wealth of her merchants, the prowess of her warriors, and the sagacity of her statesmen.  Then, on the altars of our God, let us each one devote himself to the cause of the human race; and in the name of the Lord of Hosts go forth unto the battle.  If need be, let our choicest blood flow freely; for life itself is valueless, when such interests are at stake.  Then when a world in arms is assembling to the conflict, may this country be found fighting in the vanguard for the liberties of man.  God himself hath summoned her to the contest, and she may not shrink back.  For this hour may he by his grace prepare her.

            How a contest of this kind would terminate, we should doubt, if our trust were in the arm of flesh.  But we doubt not.  We believe that the cause of man will triumph, because the Judge of the whole earth will do right.  The wrath of man shall praise him, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain.  And yet again we doubt not; for we believe that on the issue of this controversy, the dearest interests of the church of Christ are suspended.  That day will decide, whether the light of revelation shall shine far abroad among the nations, or whether it shall be extinguished, and its place be supplied by the legends of a monkish superstition.  We cannot believe that the blood of martyrs has flowed so much in vain.  We cannot believe that God will suffer his church to go back again for ages, after he has showed her in these latter days, so many tokens for good.  Therefore, though the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us; he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision.  Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.  For he hath set his King upon his holy hill of Zion.  God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

            And if the cause of true religion and of man shall eventually triumph, as we trust in God it will, who can tell how splendid are the destinies which will then await this country!  One feeling, the love of liberty, will have cemented together all the nations of the earth.  Though speaking different languages and inhabiting different regions, all will be but one people, united in the pursuit of one object, the happiness of the whole.  And at the head of this truly holy alliance, if faithful to her trust, will then this nation be found.  The first that taught them to be free; the first that suffered in the contest; the nation that most freely and most firmly stood by them in the hour of their calamity;—at her feet will they lay the tribute of universal gratitude.  Each one bound to her by every sentiment of interest and affection, she will be the centre of the new system, which shall then emerge out of the chaos of ancient institutions.  Henceforth she will sway for ages the destinies of the world.

            Who of us does not kindle into enthusiasm as he contemplates the mighty interests connected with the prosperity of this country?  With the success of our institutions, the cause of man throughout the civilized world seems indissolubly interwoven.  What, then, let us inquire, are the DUTIES TO WHICH WE ARE SUMMONED BY THE RELATION THAT WE SUSTAIN TO OUR BRETHREN OF THE HUMAN RACE?  This is the last topic to which I shall direct your attention.

            And here it is scarcely necessary to remark, that it cannot be our duty to do anything which shall at all interfere with the internal concerns of any other government.  We should thus compromise the fundamental principle of our constitution, that civil institutions are to be established or modified only in obedience to the will of the majority.  But this will can only be ascertained by allowing each nation to select for itself that form of government, which it shall choose.  If the majority in any nation are willing to be slaves, no power on earth can make them free.  It is certainly their misfortune; but physical force can do them no good.  We may extend to them every facility for the dissemination of knowledge and of religion; this we owe them as brethren of the human race; and having done this, we must commit them to the decisions of an all-wise and holy Providence.

            It is evident, then, that unless called to defend the cause of liberty in the field, all we can do for it must be done at home.  Our power resides in the force of our example.  It is by exhibiting to other nations the practical excellence of a government of law, that they will learn its nature and advantages, and will in due time achieve their own emancipation.

            The question, then, What can we do to promote the cause of liberty throughout the world? Resolves itself into another, What can we do to ensure the success of that experiment which our institutions are making upon the character of man?

            In answering it, it is important to remark, that whatever we would do for our country, must be done for THE PEOPLE.  Great results can never be effected in any other way.  Specially is this the case under a republican constitution.  Here the people are not only the real but also the acknowledged fountain of all authority.  They make the laws, and they control the execution of them.  They direct in the senate, they overawe the cabinet, and hence it is the moral and intellectual character of the people which must give to the “very age and body of our institutions their form and pressure.”

            So long, then, as our people remain virtuous and intelligent, our government will remain stable.  While they clearly perceive, and honestly decree justice, our laws will be wholesome, and the principles of our constitution will recommend themselves everywhere to the common sense of man.  But should our people become ignorant and vicious; should their decisions become the dictates of passion and venality, rather than of reason and of right, that moment are our liberties at an end; and, glad to escape the despotism of millions, we shall flee for shelter to the despotism of one.  Then will the world’s last hope be extinguished, and darkness brood for ages over the whole human race.

            Not less important is moral and intellectual cultivation, if we would prepare our country to stand forth the bulwark of the liberties of the world.  Should the time to try men’s souls ever come again, our reliance under God must be, as it was before, on the character of our citizens.  Our soldiers must be men whose bosoms have swollen with the conscious dignity of freemen, and who, firmly rusting in a righteous God, could look unmoved on embattled nations leagued together for purposes of wrong.  When the means of education everywhere throughout our country shall be free as the air we breathe; when every family shall have its Bible, and every individual shall love to read it; then and not till then shall we exert our proper influence on the cause of man; then and not till then shall we be prepared to stand forth between the oppressor and the oppressed, and say to the proud wave of domination, Thus far shalt thou go and no farther.

            It seems then evident, that the paramount duty of an American citizen, is, to put in requisition every possible means for elevating universally the intellectual and moral character of our people.

            When we speak of intellectual elevation, we would not suggest that all our citizens are to become able linguists, or profound mathematicians.  This, at least for the present, is not practicable; it certainly is not necessary.  The object at which we aim will be attained, when every man is familiarly acquainted with what are now considered the ordinary branches of an English education.  The intellectual stores of one language are then open before him; a language in which he may find all the knowledge that he shall ever need to form his opinions upon any subjects on which it shall be his duty to decide.  A man who cannot read, let us always remember, is a being not contemplated by the genius of our constitution.  Where the right of suffrage is extended to all, he is certainly a dangerous member of community who has not qualified himself to exercise it.  But on this part of the subject I need not enlarge.  The proceedings of our general and State Legislatures already furnish ample proof that our people are tremblingly alive to its importance.  We do firmly believe the time to be not far distant, when there will not be found a single citizen of these United States, who is not entitled to the appellation of a well informed man.[iv]

            But supposing all this to be done, still only a part and by far the least important part of our work will have been accomplished.  We have increased the power of the people, but we have left it doubtful in what direction that power will be exerted.  We have made it certain that a public opinion will be formed; but whether that opinion shall be healthful or destructive, is yet to be decided.  We have cut out channels by which knowledge may be conveyed to every individual of our mighty population; it remains for us, by means of those very channels, to instill into every bosom an unshaken reverence for the principles of right.  Having gone thus far, then, we must go farther; for you must be aware that the tenure by which our liberties is held can never be secure, unless moral, keep pace with intellectual cultivation.  This leads us to remark in the second place, that our other and still more imperious duty is, to cultivate the moral character of our people.[v]

            On the means by which this may be effected, I need not detain you.  We have in our hands a book of tried efficacy; a work which contains the only successful appeal that was ever made to the moral sense of man; a book which unfolds the only remedy that has ever been applied with any effect to the direful maladies of the human heart.  You need not be informed that I refer to the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

            As to the powerful, I had almost said miraculous effect of the sacred scriptures, there can no longer be any doubt in the mind of anyone one whom fact can make an impression.  That the truths of the Bible have the power of awakening an intense moral feeling in man under every variety of character, learned or ignorant, civilized or savage; that they make bad men good, and send a pulse of healthful feeling through all the domestic, civil and social relations; that they teach men to love right, to hate wrong, and to seek each other’s welfare, as the children of one common parent; that they control the baleful passions of the human heart, and thus make men proficients in the science of self government; and finally, that they teach him to aspire after conformity to a Being of infinite holiness, and fill him with hopes infinitely more purifying, more exalting, more suited to his nature than any other, which this world has ever known; are facts incontrovertible as the laws of philosophy, or the demonstrations of mathematics.  Evidence in support of all this can be brought from every age in the history of man, since there has been a revelation from God on earth.  We see the proof of it everywhere around us.  There is scarcely a neighbourhood in our country where the Bible is circulated, in which we cannot point you to a very considerable portion of its population, whom its truths have reclaimed from the practice of vice, and taught the practice of whatsoever things are pure and honest and just and of good report.

            That this distinctive and peculiar effect is produced upon every man to whom the gospel is announced, we pretend not to affirm.  But we do affirm, that besides producing this special renovation to which we have alluded, upon a part, it in a most remarkable degree elevates the tone of moral feeling throughout the whole of a community.  Wherever the Bible is freely circulated, and its doctrines carried home to the understandings of men, the aspect of society is altered; the frequency of crime is diminished; men begin to love justice, and to administer it by law; and a virtuous public opinion, that strongest safeguard of right, spreads over a nation the shield of its invisible protection.  Wherever it has faithfully been brought to bear upon the human heart, even under most unpromising circumstances, it has within a single generation revolutionized the whole structure of society; and thus within a few years done more for man, than all other means have for ages accomplished without it.  For proof of all this, I need only refer you to the effects of the gospel in Greenland, or in South Africa, in the Society Islands; or even among the aborigines of our own country.

            But before we leave this part of the subject, it may be well to pause for a moment, and inquire whether, in addition to its moral efficacy, the Bible may not exert a powerful influence on the intellectual character of man.

            And here it is scarcely necessary that I should remark, that of all the books with which, since the invention of writing, this world has been deluged, the number of those is very small which have produced any perceptible effect on the mass of human character.  By far the greater part have been, even by their cotemporaries, unnoticed and unknown.  Not many an one has made its little mark upon the generation that produced it, though it sunk with that generation to utter forgetfulness.  But after the ceaseless toil of six thousand years, how few have been the works, the adamantine basis of whose reputation has stood unhurt amid the fluctuations of time, and whose impression can be traced through successive centuries on the history of our species.

            When, however, such a work appears, its effects are absolutely incalculable; and such a work, you are aware, is the Iliad of Homer.  Who can estimate the results produced by this incomparable effort of a single mind!  Who can tell what Greece owes to this first-born of song.  Her breathing marbles, her solemn temples, her unrivalled eloquence, and her matchless verse, all point us to that transcendent genius, who by the very splendor of his own effulgence woke the human intellect from the slumber of ages.  It was Homer who gave laws to the artist; it was Homer who inspired the poet; it was Homer who thundered in the senate; and more than all, it was Homer who was sung by the people; and hence a nation was cast into the mould of one mighty mind, and the land of the Iliad, became the region of taste, the birth-place of the arts.  Nor was this influence confined within the limits of Greece.  Long after the scepter of empire had passed westward, genius still held her court on the banks of the Ilyssus, and from the country of Homer gave laws to the world.  The light which the blind old man of Scio had kindled in Greece, shed its radiance over Italy; and thus did he awaken a second nation to intellectual existence.  And we may form some idea of the power which this one work has to the present day exerted over the mind of man, by remarking, that “nation after nation, and century after century has been able to do little more than transpose his incidents, new-name his characters, and paraphrase his sentiments.”[vi]

            But considered simply as an intellectual production, who will compare the poems of Homer with the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.  Where in the Iliad shall we find simplicity and pathos which shall vie with the narrative of Moses, or maxims of conduct to equal in wisdom the Proverbs of Solomon, or sublimity which does not fade away before the conceptions of Job, or David, of Isaiah, or St. John.  But I cannot pursue this comparison.  I feel that it is doing wrong to the mind which dictated the Iliad, and to those other mighty intellects on whom the light of the holy oracles never shined.  Who that has read his poem has not observed how he strove in vain to give dignity to the mythology of his time?  Who has not seen how the religion of his country, unable to support the flight of his imagination, sunk powerless beneath him?  It is the unseen world where the master spirits of our race breathe freely and are at home; and it is mournful to behold the intellect of Homer striving to free itself from the conceptions of materialism, and then sinking down in hopeless despair, to weave idle fables of Jupiter and Juno, Apollo or Diana.  But the difficulties under which he labored are abundantly illustrated by the fact, that the light which he poured upon the human intellect taught other ages how unworthy was the religion of his day of the man who was compelled to use it.  “It seems to me,” says Longinus, “that Homer, when he ascribes dissensions, jealousies, tears, imprisonments, and other afflictions to his deities, hath, as much as was in his power, made the men of the Iliad gods, and the gods men.  To man when afflicted, death is the termination of evils; but he hath made not only the nature but the miseries of the gods eternal.”

            If then so great results have flowed from this one effort of a single mind, what may we not expect from the combined effort of several, at least his equals in power over the human heart?  If that one genius, though groping in the thick darkness of absurd idolatry, wrought so glorious a transformation in the character of his countrymen, what may we not look for from the universal dissemination of those writings, on whose authors was poured the full splendor of eternal truth?  If unassisted human nature, spell-bound by a childish mythology, have done so much, what may we not hope for from the supernatural efforts of pre-eminent genius, which spake as it was moved by the Holy Ghost?

            To sum up in a few words what has been said.  If we would see the foundations laid broadly and deeply, on which the fabric of this country’s liberties shall rest to the remotest generations; if we would see her carry forward the work of political reformation, and rise the bright and morning star of freedom over a benighted world; let us elevate the intellectual and moral character of every class of our citizens, and specially let us imbue them thoroughly with the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

            You are well aware that to carry into effect this design, is one of the objects in which good men of every denomination are now so actively engaged.  Having observed that the precepts of the Bible take more immediate effect when repeatedly inculcated upon man by teachers set apart for this purpose, missionary societies have been formed to furnish such teachers to the destitute.  Having found that the proportion of ministers of the gospel is lamentably insufficient to meet the wants of our increasing population; they have formed societies, and endowed institutions, with the design of qualifying a greater number for the pastoral office.  And again it has been observed, that youth is the season for instilling into man the elements of knowledge, and the principles of piety; and hence the Christian world is universally engaged in the benevolent work of Sabbath school instruction.  And here in passing I cannot but remark, that if indeed our country shall be saved from that ruin which has awaited other republics, and shall move steadily onward in that career of glory which Providence has opened before her; next to the circulation of the scriptures, to the Sabbath school more than to anything else, do I verily believe that salvation will be owing.

            You see then that these institutions all have one common object in view, to elevate the intellectual and moral character of our people.  Here is true philanthropy; here is Christian patriotism.  And this is one reason why we so often present these charities to your notice.  When therefore we ask you to aid us in circulating the Bible, in sending the gospel to the destitute, or in educating the ignorant, you must not look unkindly at us; for we plead the cause of our country, of liberty, and of man.  Let us all unite in spreading abroad the means of knowledge and of religion; let us do our utmost to render our nation a church of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Then, howe’er crowns and coronets be rent,

A virtuous populace shall rise the while,

And stand a wall of fire, to guard their native soil.

            And lastly, I would urge you, my brethren, to activity in these labours of charity, by presenting at single view, the momentous results with which they seem to me indissolubly connected; but I feel myself utterly incompetent to the task.

            When I reflect that some of you who now hear me will see fifty millions of souls enrolled on the census of these United States; when I think how small a proportion our present efforts bear to the pressing wants of this mighty population, and how soon the period in which those wants can be supplied will have forever elapsed; when moreover I reflect how the happiness of man is interwoven with the destinies of this country;—I want language to express my conceptions of the importance of the subject; and yet I am aware that those conceptions fall far short of the plain, unvarnished truth.  When I look forward over the long track of coming ages, the dim shadows of unborn nations pass in solemn review before me, and each, by every sympathy which binds together the whole brotherhood of man, implores this country to fulfill that destiny to which she has been summoned by an all-wise Providence, and save a sinking world from temporal misery and eternal death.

            In view of all these considerations, let me again urge you to be in earnest in this cause.  I would plead with you, instead of engaging in political strife, to put forth your hands to the work of making your fellow citizens wiser and better.  I pray you think less of parties and more of your country; and instead of talking about patriotism, to be indeed patriots.  And specially would I charge you to give to this cause not only your active exertions, but your unceasing prayers.  Ye who love the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, until he establish this his Jerusalem, and make her a praise in the whole earth.  God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us; that his name may be known on earth, and his saving health unto all nations.  And to him shall be the glory, forever.  Amen




Note A.           Page 6.


            In confirmation of these remarks, it may not be amiss to state the following facts.  The Gentleman’s Magazine was, until about thirty years since, almost the only extensively circulated periodical pamphlet in Great Britain.  In this department of literature are now numbered, The Edingburgh and Quarterly Reviews; Westminster Review; Blackwood’s, The Scotsman’s, Monthly, New Monthly, Gentleman’s, and Sporting Magazines; The Christian Observer; Eclectic Review; Universal Review; The Etonian; The Oxonian; Ackerman’s Repository; Retrospective Review; London Magazine; Baldwin’s Magazine; The  Churchman; Evangelical Magazine; Mechanic’s Magazine; The Literary Chronicle; Literary Gazette; The Kaleidoscope; Newcastle Magazine; British Critic; Pamphleteer; Classical Journal; Christian Guardian; Cottager’s Magazine; Farmer’s Magazine; Sunday School Magazine; European Magazine; Imperial Magazine; Literary Magnet; Knight’s Quarterly Magazine; four Botanical Journals, monthly; three of general science, quarterly; besides several other scientific and professional periodical works.  Some of these are splendidly edited, many ably, and most well supported.  The largest works print from five to fourteen thousand copies.

            Upon the eight morning and six evening papers in London, there are no less than 150 literary gentlemen employed, at an expense of L1000 per week; for workmen, L1500 per week; and L1500 more for the literary labours of the weekly and semi-weekly papers.  There are on an average 250 provincial papers.  300,000 papers are ordinarily printed in London weekly, and 200,000 in the country; total 500,000.  The whole amount of the expenses of the British newspaper press is estimated at L721,266 per annum.  The total number of newspaper stamps issued in Great Britain, for the year 1821, was 24,779,786.

            From these facts we may form some idea of the demand for information in Great Britain.  But one other fact may convince us that the number of readers very far exceeds the number of printed papers.  “It is there a custom for carriers to set out in all directions daily, and let papers out to customers, for a few moments to each, as they proceed, until night; so that a hundred persons may read or rather glance over the same paper for a penny each.”

            “There are but few papers published in the departments of France; but those in the metropolis, publish an enormous number.  The Constitutionel publishes 19,000; the Journal des Debats, 14,000, and the other papers from that to 5,000.”  It is probable that the ratio of improvement in many nations on the continent of Europe is not very far beneath that of Great Britain.


Note B            Page 31.


            “The following are a few of the subjects of the political essays of the Censor (a periodical paper published at Buenos Ayres) in 1817: an explanation of the Constitution of the United States, and highly praised—The Lancastrian System of Education—on the causes of the prosperity of the United States—Milton’s essay on the liberty of the press—A review of the work of the late President Adams, on the American Constitution, and a recommendation of checks and balances, continued through several numbers and abounding with much useful information for the people—brief notice of the life of James Monroe, president of the United States—examination of the federative system—on the trial by Jury—on popular elections—on the effect of enlightened productions on the condition of mankind—an analysis of the several State constitutions of the Union, &c.

            “There are in circulation, Spanish translations of many of our best revolutionary writings.  The most common are two miscellaneous volumes, one, containing Paine’s common sense and rights of man, and declaration of Independence, several of our constitutions, and General Washington’s farewell address.  The other is an abridged history of the United States down to the year 1810, with a good explanation of the nature of our political institutions, accompanied with a translation of Mr. Jefferson’s inaugural speech, and other state papers.  I believe these have been read by nearly all who can read, and have produced a most extravagant admiration of the United States, at the same time, accompanied with something like despair.”—Breckenridge’s South America, Vol. II. Pp. 213, 214.—From Prof. Everett’s Oration at Plymouth.





Note C.           Page 38.


            In illustration of these remarks, it may be interesting to state the following facts.  “Not one of the eleven new States has been admitted into the Union without provision in its constitution for Schools, Academies, Colleges and Universities.  In most of the original States large sums in money are appropriated to education.  And they claim a share in the great landed investments which are mortgaged to it in the new States.  Reckoning those contributions, federal and local, it may be asserted, that nearly as much as the whole national expenditure of the United States is set apart by the laws for enlightening the people.  Besides more than half a million at publick schools, there are considerably more than 3000 undergraduates matriculated at the various colleges and universities authorized to confer academical degrees.”—Ingersoll’s Oration before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

            It is, however, evident, from the returns of the State of New York alone, that the above estimate of Mr. Ingersoll is vastly below the truth.  Governor Clinton in his late message states, that “the number of children taught in our common schools during the last year, exceeds 400,000; and is probably more than one fourth of our whole population.  The students in the incorporated academies amount to 2,683; and in the Colleges to 755.”  It is very rare to find a person born in New England, who cannot both read and write.  The late Judge Reeve, of the Supreme Court of Connecticut, declared, that in the whole of his professional practice, he had found but three persons in that State who could not sign their names, and that all of them were foreigners.


Note D.          Page 39.


            “A republican government is certainly most congenial with the nature, most propitious to the welfare, and most conducive to the dignity of our species.  Man becomes degraded in proportion as he loses the right of self government.  Every effort ought therefore to be made to fortify our free institutions, and the great bulwark of security is to be formed in education; the culture of the heart and the head; the diffusion of knowledge, piety and morality.  A virtuous and enlightened man can never submit to degradation, and a virtuous and enlightened people will never breathe in the atmosphere of slavery.  Upon education, then, we must rely for the purity, the preservation, and the perpetuation of Republican government.  In this sacred cause, we cannot exercise too much liberality.  It is identified with our best interests in this world, and with our best destinies in the world to come.”Gov. Clinton’s last Message.   END.

[i] Note A.

[ii] Ch. Observer, Vol. 24, p. 401.

[iii] Note B.

[iv] Note C.

[v] Note D.

[vi] Johnson. Preface to Shakespeare.

Sermon – Fasting – 1836, Massachusetts (Gunnison)

The Nation’s Progress,


Licentiousness and Ruin,

A Discourse,

Delivered on the Evening of the

Annual Fast in Massachusetts,

April 7, 1836.


By John Gunnison,

Pastor of the Union Evangelical Church

Of Amesbury and Salisbury.


“Their rules of life,

Defective and unsanctioned, prove too weak

To bind the roving appetite, and lead

Blind nature up to God.” Cowper.



Printed by J. Caldwell,

Courier Press.




Psalm XXII: 23.

The Kingdom is the Lord’s; He is the governor among the nations.

Psalm II:9. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.


These sentiments are but dimly recognized, either by the rulers or the ruled of this world. That the world belongs to God–that He made it–that He governs it–and that He will dispose of it, are facts seldom presenting themselves, in all the impressiveness of their vast reality, before the great mass of human minds. It is true men do not–they dare not–in so many words deny the rightful dominion of God; yet they do virtually exclude Him from his own kingdom. By enacting laws, and cherishing principles, and setting examples, in direct contrariety to the divine law, rulers ask, in language by no means equivocal; “Who is the Lord, that we should obey Him?” –and by following out his spirit in their allowed practices, the great mass of men say, “There is no God!”

 Now here we detect the specious machinery of atheism. The simple fact that men deny their obligations to God, or attempt unrighteously to cancel these obligations, shows beyond doubt that they deem themselves their own masters, created for their own gratification, with a perfect right to live exclusively to themselves. Yet, notwithstanding the universality of this practical atheism, “The kingdom is the Lord’s, and He is governor among the nations.” This is God’s world. He made it. He preserves it, and to his righteous disposal it must ultimately submit.

“Why then do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? Why do the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, let us break their bands asunder, and let us cast their cords away from us? He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh. The Lord shall have them in derision. He shall speak to them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.”

 It would seem that the fact of God’s rightful authority should have exerted, ere this, a constraining influence upon the world which he has made. Such however is not the result. It has been true in all time that men are “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” If we survey the first sinner, upon his expulsion from paradise, or mark the malice of Cain, or the ambition of Nimrod; or if we trace down in all its length the mighty stream of generations past, we perceive the same features, and the same proofs of practical atheism, in the great mass of men, of every period and of every clime.

 The idolatry of the Canaanites, the abominations of Israel, he tyranny of Ahab, the cruelties of Nero, the fires of the Inquisition, and the blasphemies of Voltaire and Paine, although standing out as monitory way-marks in the “course of time,” are by no means extraordinary exhibitions. They serve indeed as beacons for us to gaze at and as facts to converse upon and occasions from which wrongfully to infer our own virtue, and to congratulate our own age and country upon the refinement of intellect–the reign of liberty–and the influence of religion–when, in sober truth, the same great outlines of oppression, idolatrous love to the world, atheism, and unblushing sin, in all their essential elements, live and operate in our own bosoms–expand by our firesides–give complexion to our social interviews–pollute our sanctuaries– bask beneath the tree of liberty and assume the control of our national and state legislatures.

In confirmation of these remarks, it seems needful only to survey the existing state of the public mind and the public morals in our own land.

 From the morals of a community may always be inferred the virtue or licentiousness of public sentiment; and on the other hand, the public mind is always a true index of the public morals. That era of anarchy and misrule which changed the most populous cities of France into a modern Golgotha, by the sacrifice of not fewer than three millions of human beings upon the altar of cruelty and lust, did not at once burst forth, without having been preceded by the state of mind and morals, in perfect accordance with all the fatal transactions of that dark period.

Previous to the out-breaking of the French Revolution, it is a well-known historical fact, that the public mind had become notoriously licentious. It is true, that a “form of godliness” was sustained; nor is it less true, that atheism was openly avowed by many, and secretly cherished by more, whose place and whose privilege it was to give form, and force, and character to the public mind.

 Licentiousness of sentiment, therefore, may justly be regarded as the pioneer which preceded and effectually prepared the way for the abolition of God’s sabbath–the prostitution of His ordinances, and the entire reign of terror which ensued. And is not similar licentiousness of sentiment now a marked, and by no means a happy feature of our national mind?

The Press, in these States, is an engine of immense power indeed, with some qualification, may it not be denominated the presiding genius of our law, religion, and liberty? What then is the general character of the American press? Is it, or is it not anti-Christian? In reference to the great mass of periodicals devoted to politics, may it not justly be asserted, that their influence, in this point of view, is bad, decidedly bad? To profit, or party, or popularity, most of them are manifestly pledged; wholly irrespective of those eternal obligations which bind all men to act for God and virtue. And what shall be said of scores even, among those nominally devoted to the advancement of God’s kingdom? Is it not their direct tendency to undermine the deep and everlasting foundations of the gospel? It cannot be denied, that to a considerable extent, through the press, the public mind is infected with the spirit of a religion, which not only fails of recognizing God as the moral Governor of the world, and contemplating man as a lost and guilty being, whose only refuge from “the wrath to come” is in the cross of Christ–but a religion which commends itself to the worldly, the careless and the profane, by casting a false garb over the deep depravity of the heart–by trifling with sin, and sneering at accountability and a “judgment to come.” “Christ and the Church!” was the motto of our puritan fathers; but this perverted public sentiment leaves God, and Christ, and holiness, and the Church altogether in the back ground. And have not the magistrate and the preacher aided the press and contributed their full share in this deterioration of public sentiment?

 Whether the multitude range themselves under the undisguised banner of infidelity, or embrace a system claiming affinity with the scriptures, the operation of one and the same spirit seems widely prevalent. This spirit manifestly seeks to deny, evade or explain away the great distinguishing doctrines of revelation–to keep the awful attributes of God out of sight–to hurl conscience from her throne–to blot out accountability–to reduce heaven and hell and holiness to the mere imagery of a disordered brain, and with one sweeping stroke, to prostrate all those cardinal truths which alone can exert a redeeming influence upon fallen man.

 There was a period in our history, when the public sentiment (especially of New England) contemplated man, not as the mere creature of time and chance and reason; but as a being of eternal destination–a subject of God’s moral government–most strongly bound to recognize the law of his Creator and to live for eternity, his final abode. Then, appeals were made, both by the magistrate, the preacher, and the press, to the moral obligation and the living conscience of men.

Then, instead of eulogizing the all-sufficiency of reason, and man’s native purity, and God’s indulgent tenderness toward sin; instead of speaking with complacency of the imperfection of the scriptures, and the innocent frailties of human nature; and the trifling importance of vital godliness–public sentiment recognized distinctly through all its mediums, the “desperate wickedness” of unrenewed hearts; the personality and office word of the Holy Ghost; the vicarious sufferings of “God manifest in the flesh;” the supremacy of the scriptures; and the indispensableness of that new-birth, without which none can see God in peace.

 Then, God the Creator, God the Lawgiver, God the Governor and God the Judge, both in the world of matter and the world of mind, was acknowledged; and the elements of man’s spiritual and accountable being were aroused and put in motion by appeals to his actual state, in relation to those everlasting truths revealed in the scriptures.

 And what was the result upon the Puritans themselves, and their immediate descendants? Why (to borrow the language of a certain writer, not far from a century subsequent to the landing of the pilgrims) –“The name and interest of God has been written upon us, in capital letters, from the beginning. How did our fathers entertain the gospel from the first, with all the institution thereof! How much of “holiness to the Lord; was inscribed upon all their ways and works@ and how do we reap the fruits, in the good influence of our pious rulers, and the practice of morality, and the enjoyment of peaceable times!” Near the same period, a member of the British Parliament, in a speech before that body, said– “I have lived in New England seven years, and all that time I never heard one profane oath; and all that time I never saw a man drunk in that land.”

 Now when we wander back through by-gone periods, and contrast the purity of that “olden time” with the corruption of the present, how can we avoid the conviction, that, in the language of Moses to Israel, “Of the Rock that begat us we are unmindful; and have forgotten God, that formed us?” That “we have provoked him to jealousy with new gods, and sacrificed to gods which came newly up, which our fathers feared not?” How can the fact be well concealed that a spirit of practical atheism is not only pervading the domestic circle, but diffusing its baneful influence through the press, and the pulpit, the court of justice, and the hall of legislation?

Is it not obvious that the face of society now exhibits many of those dark presages which ushered in the death-struggle of liberty, religion and law in revolutionary France? Who can fail of perceiving, in “the signs of the times,” a marked contempt of those statutes of eternal righteousness, laid down in the great law-book of heaven? Is it not easy to detect in many features of our political economy and the administration of our civil government, a tacit denial of God’s right and God’s agency, and the great principles of God’s government amongst men?

Instead of making, as did the Puritans, God’s word the polestar and chart of legislative rule and legal enactment, is it not undeniable, that selfishness, reckless of consequences, often binds in fetters of adamant the decisions of the Judge–the doings of State legislatures, and the acts of Congress?

 Time was, when for arresting with a bold and fearless hand, the current of death in its fatal sweep over the community, a worthy citizen could not have been personally abused, legally prohibited the liberty of speech, fined, and condemned to solitary imprisonment; and the reckless ruffian exculpated from the due rewards of his deeds, and virtually commended for personal insult and brutal force! In the better days of New England, such an act of palpable disregard to righteousness in high places would have eclipsed her glory, and darkened the promise of her brightening hopes.

 But now, such a transaction may command public applause; and in perfect keeping with the spirit by which this is prompted, the system of retailing strong drink at the corner of every street, and in almost every dark receptacle of sin, is legalized, and guarded and watched over, and invested with energy and power, and progress, by those august bodies, which are entrusted with the guardianship of the commonwealth, and solemnly pledged to act for the public good. It would seem that the iniquitous system of “rum-shops and ruin,” which has so long obliterated the fear and counteracted the truth of God; and preyed upon the very vitals of our communities; I say, it would seem that this ruinous system should have failed ere this to command the influence of legislative enactments, and the fostering guardianship of the law.

 Indeed, it is matter both of astonishment and mortification, that in such a land, and at such a day, the cause of distillers, drunkards and criminals can be vindicated by the majesty of the statute book! Yet such is the fact; and the position (of some at least) of our constituted authorities, in relation to the distillery and the dram-shop, is such, in the judgment of sober charity, as to exclude the moral government of God and the accountability of man altogether from the public mind! And how shall it be accounted for? Why truly, “the powers that be” seem, at least in this respect, moved and influenced by that greater power, denominated in scripture phrase, “the God of this world.” Fear of public odium–love of sensual indulgence, or self-interest, in some one or other of its numerous forms, appears to have perverted the judgments–blinded the perception, and eradicated from the ethics of our rulers, those eternal principles of righteousness, which only can “exalt a nation.” And thus it comes to pass that in instances, too numerous, both the maker and the executor of the law sacrifice the interests of two worlds upon the polluted and polluting altar of selfishness.

In fact, the publicly legalized and cherished manufacture and sale of intoxicating drinks, with its associated sisterhood of vices, affords fearful indication that the death-struggle of virtue is about being witnessed; and that Jehovah is suffering us as a nation, to strengthen ourselves “against the Almighty;” and to rush madly “upon the thick bosses of his burning buckler.”

Associated with this sin and invigorated by the atmosphere of a lax religious sentiment, is the open and allowed and legalized desecration of God’s sabbath.

It is ours, not only to witness in the common walks of life, the transaction of secular business–the idleness– the labor, and the sport, which, from the gray-headed to the little child, alarmingly mark the Lord’s day; but also, to see our national legislature lay reckless hands upon that sacred institution, by employing scores of thousands in conveying the mails, discharging the duties of the Post Office, drilling at military stations, and attending to secular business, in various other departments of the  general government; and thus giving the whole country a precedent for travelling, boating, gambling, horse-racing, or whatever else may suit their own convenience or profit, or pleasure on that day, with the sanctification of which is entwined the very life of our country’s welfare. And it might with propriety be added, that the personal example of our rulers, from the highest to the lowest, with few exceptions, indicates in this respect, the prevalence of an infidelity, the sad story of which will probably be read by coming generations, in the gone-by glory and departed worth of this once favored land. Here again we can but perceive marked forgetfulness of God, rebellion against His laws, and a tacit denial that “the kingdom is the Lord’s; that he is Governor amongst the nation’s.”

An additional feature of the same degeneracy may be seen in the gross, growing, and disgraceful violation of the seventh commandment; under which, to say the least, every city, and village, and considerable town groans and becomes infected with the elements both of literal and spiritual death. This “body of sin” has filled our moral atmosphere with pestilential vapors; and in conjunction with infidelity, intemperance and sabbath breaking, consigned to the grave and a hopeless eternity.

“Tis a vortex insatiate, on whose giddy bosom,

The victim is whirl’d, till his senses are gone;

When lost to all shame, and the dictates of reason,

He lends not an effort to ever return.”

How many have found its ‘end as bitter as wormwood;” and mourned “at last, when their flesh and body are consumed!” and yet it is tolerated by the laxity of public religious sentiment. The prevailing skepticism, in regard to God’s government and God’s truth, gives it countenance; and the pulpit, and the press, and the ruler have forborne to portray its hideous features, and to hang out for the benefit of the young and unsuspecting, such beacons as should effectually deter them from that pathway which leads “down to hell.” And hence, it has continued to extend its ravages and multiply its victims, and increase its pollutions, in our nominally Christian communities–in which even, there has seemed to be too little virtue to check its onward march! Nevertheless, “Because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience!”

“Whoremongers and adulterers, He will judge!”

To the foregoing it were well to add, in all their deteriorating attitudes, and disgraceful mobs, the deliberate assassinations, the gambling, the perjury and bribes, which in most parts of the country, stalk forth at noon day. But time forbids. Justice, however, demands the introduction of one other, and peradventure, the chief of this sisterhood of harpies, who have already commenced their prey upon our body politic; and are rapidly bearing off in their foul talons, the guards of liberty, the restraints of law, and the sanctions of religion. I allude to American Slavery. “That we have in the midst of us more than town millions of human being in servile bondage, is a fact suited to awaken the deepest solicitude and the most fearful apprehension.” This simple fact of itself is a caricature upon all the institutions of our boasted democracy; it gives the lie to our constitution; and holds us up to the world as a nation of hypocrites and oppressors! Such is the attitude in which it inevitably places these United States.

Nor is it amongst the least of the alarming features of this great national sin, that it finds a congenial atmosphere in the capital of this falsely-called “asylum of the oppressed;” and beneath the very eye of the constituted guardians of liberty!

Think of the spectacle. On the one hand, imagine the American eagle proudly towering above the nation’s dome, the ensign of equal rights; and on the other, –perchance within the very shadow which this proud ensign casts upon the distance–scores or hundreds of human beings, lacerated by the lash, groaning beneath the chain, or being bought and sold like beasts of burden! And those too, MEN, to whom equally with ourselves, not only the Constitution, but the God of nature, has guaranteed the “inalienable rights” of “life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness!” A spectacle sufficiently ludicrous one might suppose, to ensure its suppression, even were it not attended with superlative guilt. But alas! When we enter the halls of Congress; when we listen to the sentiments advanced by many of those legislators who lay high claim to patriotism, devotion to the cause of liberty, and even deference for the bible, we can be tremble for our political ark. There, in the legitimate spirit of despotism, we hear the right, and even the virtue of slavery asserted. Here, in too many lamentable instances, we see a disposition to sacrifice upon the altar of lust and licentiousness, whatever is valuable in our bill of rights, and whatever is obligatory in the law of love. It is a dark omen–that Columbia, the seat of government, the alledged strong-hold of liberty, the focus of equal rights, should after all be the greatest slave market perhaps in the Christian world, is a fact pregnant with the most fearful evils. The “mischief” however, thus “framed by law, and proceeding from the throne of iniquity,’ terminates not with the sacrifice of the flesh, and blood, and souls of nearly three millions of immortal beings; but like the poisonous effluvia from the fabled bohon upas, it impregnates the whole atmosphere of our republic.

Witness its influence in the interception and robbery of the United mail; the cold-blooded murder of guiltless citizens, without the privilege of trial by jury; the various attempts to interdict the freedom of the press; and by lawless mobs and brute force, to aim a fatal blow at free discussion, and liberty of speech! It is not, then merely the wrongful oppression of degraded millions, which is involved in the natural results of this great moral outrage; but all the rights and immunities for which the Pilgrims suffered, the Puritans prayed, and the Patriots bled; all that is dear in our social compact; all that is valuable in our privileges of citizenship; all that is to be prized in our religious, literary and political institutions; stands or falls inevitably with the great question of American slavery, in its present aspects and bearings. Yes–let the unobstructed influence of this crying sin, with its legitimate legion of moral maladies and physical tortures, continues to go forth and finally preponderate–and the knell of this republic will soon have tolled–our halls of legislation will be transformed into theatres of violence and blood–our Constitution scattered to the winds–our sanctuaries demolished–and evils “without a precedent, without a number, and without a name,” overwhelm us, as did the deluge the antediluvians, or the fire the guilty cities of the plain.

Without, therefore, attempting to describe the numberless evils, the cruelties, the unbridled licentiousness, the extreme degradation of morals, the ruin of souls, and the numerous and nameless lesser sufferings and sins of which slavery is directly or indirectly the prolific source; I would merely ask, do not the facts alluded to in this connexion, show undeniably that our nation has forgotten that God who has threatened to judge the oppressor? –That we practically claim the kingdom as our own–and impiously ask, “Who is Lord over us?”

Howbeit, such is the spectacle which our country at present exhibits. These are the great features of its moral character and its political aspect. Such is the cloud, surcharged with blackness and pregnant with the lightnings of heaven, which is now intercepting the rays of our sun, and stretching athwart our national horizon! It is not however, there mere demanded surrender of civil rights–it is not the prospective entombing of liberty and law alone, which admonish us of the coming catastrophe, in a voice of thunder; but those interests which are vastly more valuable–which will outlive time and chance and change–the interests of the imperishable spirit, the untold and imagineless joys or woes of an approaching ETERNITY, call upon us to AWAKE! And is there no redeeming principle? May not the threatening calamity be strayed? Not surely by casting a false and fallacious garb over the existing state of things. The elements of anarchy and sin can never be palsied and rendered powerless by the siren song of safety. You might as well hope to arrest the tornado by dint of argument, or to lull the ocean to repose with the sound of the violin. No–the seeds of iniquity lie deeply imbedded in the human soul. “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” In the power and the purity of vital godliness, therefore, exists our last hope. A return to the primitive views of God’s character and the sublime, and spiritual and purifying truths of God’s word, holds forth the only bright promise either for “the life that now is or that which is to come.” Here must be the starting place, the source, and the sanction of all genuine reform. The gross, and willful, and bewildering errors, in regard to God’s righteous government and man’s moral being, which have so widely gone forth, must be counter acted by those scriptural truths, which urge the broad and spiritual and unyielding demands of the divine law–which waken up convictions of sin, solicitude for salvation, and thirst for holiness, in the heart forgetful of God and careless of its immortal destiny. Not until then, will the deceitful gains and the gaudy gayeties of this passing world fade away before the Saviors’ Cross. Not until then, will the sense of a present and presiding God constrain and hollow-hearted statesman, and the unrighteous judge, and the aspiring demagogue, to act in reference to that day, “when every work shall be brought into judgment, with every secret thing!” indeed, not until then, will “peace on earth and good will” abound, and man’s emancipated spirit, “like the waters of a peaceful pool, reflect the image of heaven.” But whilst he continues to imbibe the elements of any system which deprives God of his holiness–the transgressor of his guilt, and sin of its malignity; so long will man think upon and live for himself alone. So long will he forget his moral ruin, and the imperishable spirit, and God his Judge, and eternity, his final abode. So long will he seek only the world that he dwells in, the vanities that encompass him around, and those “fleshly lust that war against the soul.” Until the bible, as understood by Paul and the Pilgrims shall become the “citizen’s directory and the statesman’s manual,” bribery, and intrigue, and management will preside at our elections; and instead of having our “officers peace and our exactors righteousness,” the wicked will rule–sin will stand forth with brazen front in the hall of legislation, the seat of justice, and the sanctuary of God–and the land will mourn.

So long, it must be expected, that “the house” which “is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death” will continue to send forth its putrefactive influence; diffusing rottenness and corruption through the land–while drunkenness, perjury and murder flourish within and around it.

So long, that Sabbath will be used as an engine of Satan, in the unrestrained pursuit of sin. It will be appropriated to human convenience of interest, a legalized, and established and frequented entrance-way to perdition.

So long will rulers legislate, and advocates plead, and judges decide for distilleries and dram shops, and ensure an incalculable amount of wrong and ruin to the community.

So long will human flesh and blood and souls be held in unrighteous bondage– the institution of marriage derided–separation of parents and children enforced–a vast system of incest and pollution cherished–and liberty, and right, and religion despised and trampled in the dust, until “the land spew us out, as it spewed out the nations that were before us.”

And now, my brethren, it remains for the watchmen upon Zion’s walls; and for “the church of God which He has purchased with his own blood,” to decide in no small measure whether our country shall still be borne down, and palsied, and petrified by this mighty pressure of sin, until He who “is Governor among the nations, shall “break us with a rod of iron, and dash in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Did the prayer of Abraham avail for polluted Sodom? Might “ten righteous” have saved the guilty cities of the plain? What then may not the thousands of Israel, by deep humiliation, repentance, and intercession before God, accomplish for our sinning, sinking land? “Behold, thus saith the Lord, return ye everyone from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good. But if ye will not return, I will pluck you up, and leave you desolate.” Let, therefore, the neglect of God and profanation of His sabbath, the lewdness and intemperance, oppression and pride, and practical atheism which now abound, be tolerated, and cheered and cherished, by the rulers and the ruled, but for a while, and the sad crisis of our destiny will have fully come.

“Behold, saith the Lord, it is written before me, I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense, your iniquities into your own bosom!” and what can shield us against the righteous retribution of Jehovah? Where are the cities, and states, and kingdoms of antiquity? Babylon? Ninevah? Tyre? Egypt? Carthage? Could their walls, or treasures, or armies withstand the visitation of the Almighty? “Like a potter’s vessel,” they are “dashed in pieces” –like a passing meteor, they have faded from the horizon of human sight! And thus must it be inevitably in relation to ourselves, “whenever God takes off his restraining hand,” and suffers lewdness, and lust, and infidelity unchecked to fill the sail, and guide the helm, and drive furiously upon the hidden rocks below! Then–in the characteristic language of an eminent writer–“the reign of chaos will return. The waves of our unquiet sea, high as our mountains, will roll, and roar, and dash, from West to East, and from South to North, wrecking the hopes, and upturning the deep foundations of all that we hold dear! Who then would thrust out our ship from her moorings, in a starless night, upon an ocean of storms, without rudder, or anchor, or compass, or chart? The elements around us may remain; and our giant rivers and mountains; our miserable descendants also may multiply and vegetate, and rot, in moral darkness and putrefaction, –But, the American character, and our glorious institutions, will go down to the tomb, and our epitaph will stand forth a warning to the world–Thus endeth the nation that despised the Lord!”

Here, then, o ye people! “Be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”


Sermon – Fasting – 1839, Maine

Fret not thyself because of evil doers.”



Preached on Fast Day,

April 18, 1839.


By Samuel Hopkins

Pastor of the First Congregational Church

In Saco, ME.


[Published by Request]



S. L. Goodale




Psalm 37. 1.


Fret Not Thyself Because of Evil Doers.


The world abounds with evil doers. You may find them – without search – among the polite and the vulgar; in high ways and by-ways; abroad and at home. They beset you, they face you, they thwart you – everywhere. If you will, you may spy some deformity of conduct, or policy, or principle – some flaw or defect – some excrescence or putrefying sore – upon every one you look at; upon chief magistrate, law maker, judge, and petty justice; upon pedagogue and school-boy; buyer and seller; husband, wife, and child; maid and mistress; deacon and minister of the Gospel.

How this strange and universal degeneracy comes to pass – how it dare sustain itself against the tremendous warnings of all past history – I do not stop to enquire. The fact is all I want. Everybody – at least everybody else – does wrong, more or less. They do not do what they should. They do what they should not.

Another thing. The eyes and ears of the present generation are peculiarly occupied with each others’ faults. Not that we are quicker to scent, or more ravenous to devour, the offal [refuse] of human wickedness than our fathers were. But times have changed. The ends of the earth are brought together. An evil done at a distant point–in a twinkling–is bruited in our ears. The press tells it. Steam power carries it. Strolling lecturers trumpet it and denounce it.  And the result is, that whereas past generations could see but little of the deeds of evildoers, beyond their own firesides or hamlets – we have an interminable succession of abominations, floating before us from every quarter of the globe, thrust upon us by every wind that blows, chattered to us by every tongue that talks, till we are sickened – verily sickened – with the uncleannesses of a world lying in wickedness. All this is well. God has his design in it. And God will make it tell – with power, too – in the accomplishment of his purposes of grace.

These two facts, then, are now before us; the one – that the world is full of evil doers; and the other – that the deeds of evil doers, to a degree unknown in former times, are forced upon our minds.

These things being so – if ever there was a generation for whom the words of our text were specially designed; if ever there was a generation who needed specially to weigh and remember these words – that generation is our own. And perhaps the careful consideration of their import can never be more timely than upon a day like this; a day set apart “in view of our manifold transgressions as individuals and as a community”; a day which we are as prone to occupy in brooding over the sins of others, as in confessing and forsaking our own.

The duty enjoined in the text can hardly be stated in plainer terms – “Fret not thyself because of evil doers.” In presenting it to your consideration I shall endeavor.


I.       To illustrate the behavior here prohibited.

II.    To present some reasons why we should avoid it.


I.       Let us examine the behavior here prohibited.

A man of a right spirit will feel the spirit stirred within him against Sin; whether the Sin be in himself or in others; whether it rise before him in the misdeeds of the oppressor, in the vices of the inebriate, in the arts of the libertine, or in the waywardness of a little child. He will not wonder, yet never feel – he will not behold, yet never care a feather – when evil doers are scattering firebrands, arrows and death. Neither will he be roused because men do evil here or there, in this way or that – yet blink and nod and go to sleep over wickedness in some other shape or some other place. It is impossible for us, if we obey the Bible, to look upon any sort of evil doing with indifference.

There is, then, a feeling, an excitement of heart against evil doers which is duty. To describe it; it is – dislike – strong aversion – abhorrence. All this exists in the spotless citizen of heaven. It exists in God.

But – there is a kind of excitement which, forsooth, because it is against evil doers, calls itself good, and passes for good, though it is kith and kin with the evil it opposes. It is not an excitement which leads us to yearn over the worker of iniquity. It is not an excitement which sends us to our closets to weep and plead in their behalf. It is an excitement which hurries us to harshness and bitterness; of look, of word, of deed. It is – passion. It is – ill humor. It is – wrath. It is what, in common talk, we call “getting cross.” It is what the Bible calls “fretting ourselves.” When we indulge it, we get out of all patience and into all agitation – perhaps, beside ourselves – because somebody does not do, or believe, or feel, or preach, what we think is right. When a child teases us; when a jockey cheats us; when a friend neglects us, or a neighbor defames us; when a man-seller or a rum-seller will not mind us; when an impudent fellow insults us; when any one refuses our party, our doctrine, or our measures; when Congress thrusts out our petitions; when  a Christian brother or a Christian minister seems to us to say “God speed” to the wicked; – whatever be the evil, and how great soever the provocation – the moment we lose our temper, the moment we get angry and vexed, we fall into the very behavior forbidden in our text. We “fret ourselves because of evil doers.”

II.    Let us consider some reasons why we should avoid fretting ourselves because of evil doers.

1. One reason is – it does no good. True – it sometimes passes for an evidence of piety; and sometimes is all the evidence we can get. We may point to our feelings and our bold words and our schemes and our labors against evil doers and say – “Lo our zeal – ; our zeal for the Lord of Hosts.” [Isaiah 37:32] – We may point conscience there and say – “Peace – Peace.” We may feel Pharisaical, and self-righteous, and self-pleased, and safe, because we are hot against the wicked. Thus our opposition to evil doers may give a temporary comfort; it may bolster up, for a day, our souls – lull to sleep, for a night, our fears – and keep at bay, for a while, our convictions.

But does this do us good? Does it make us better? Does it mold us into the likeness of God? Does it help us in our preparatory work for heaven? What! – fretfulness – ill temper – self-righteousness – the light of our own fire – the sparks of our own kindling – guide us to glory and to God! Fretting ourselves against the wicked – is this attuning our hearts to the music of heaven! But, if not – what doth it profit us?

“But it does the wicked good. It takes off their chariot wheels. It troubles their consciences. It sometimes makes them leave off their wickedness.”

Does it? What! You’re getting peevish do all this! Your ill humor physic away iniquity like this! The mere lightning and grumbling of a towering passion – of yours, of mine, or of a hundred others leagued together – will they do so much? Will a scowl – all alone – quell a willful child? Will a volley of angry words – and nothing else – reclaim a thief? Will the flashing indignation of priests and elders – all alone – convert a heretic? Will the trumpeted wrath of the north – all alone – bring to repentance the slaveholder of the south?

Try it – then. To the work – then; good men and true. And – by all your pity for the oppressed, your fears for the unbeliever, your regard for order, and you love for domestic peace – use no truth, no persuasion, no authority; but raise one united and untiring peal of wrath – till the wilderness bud and blossom – till the world put on righteousness for her robe and beauty for her diadem.

“But, nay – ; this is absurd. No one affirms it. Truth is wanted, for the conscience. Power is wanted, for the perverse.”

Well – then; has Truth grown halt and lazy, in her old age, that she must needs be whipped and spurred by Passion? Has Power lost its nerve and right that it must be bolstered up by anger? – If truth for the conscience, and power for the intractable – be the legitimate and effective means of dealing with the wicked, why not trust to them? Why foist in something else? Can we not publish truth – can we not use our power (when we get it) without being in a passion? To be sure we can. And if we can, and if a sour temper neither convicts the conscience nor subjects the forward pray how does it mend the matters of a wicked world? Not at all. Then it does no good. And God has well said – “Fret not thyself because of evil doers.”

The truth is – when a man’s desire is purely to do good; to convince, to reclaim, to gain, the evil doer; he coincides, instinctively, with the precept we are considering. He is moved; but not to wrath. He is excited; but not with fretting. He goes about, the gentle and hopeful bearer of “the Truth as it is in Jesus.” A precious testimony, this, to the righteousness and wisdom of the text.

2.  But – another reason. Fretting ourselves because of evil doers does hurt.

How is our own comfort affected by it? Well – or ill? Watch the man who is out of humor at somebody’s wickedness; the man whose words are quick and sharp and hot; the man who looks and tones and gestures show you that he is out of patience – vexed – that someone does not think as he thinks and do as he does. Is he happy? – No. that fretful gust must pass away; that swell of passion must subside, before he can enjoy himself or anything that God has made. But we need not look to others, to understand this. We have all felt it. Anger and enjoyment cannot live together. They are contrary the one to the other. We must either train ourselves to consider, and to endure evil doers without being irritated; or – in this world where they whirl around us like the leaves of autumn – we must lead wretched life to our graves.

Beside; a man in a passion is no comfortable companion. In matters not what his passion concerns. Whether fretting himself because someone has done right, or because someone has done wrong – he sends discomfort all around him.

And again; when we are irritated because of evil doers, we shall act accordingly. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” [Matthew 12:34] “Out of the heart are the issues of life.” [Proverbs 4:23] Like does not more surely beget like, than a fretted temper, some evil fruit. It makes us speak wrong. It makes us do wrong.

And yet more. A vexed spirit vexes a spirit. Passion excites passion. If you do wrong, and I fret about it, you are not excited by my wrath to do better, but to do as you please; and that is – to do wrong the more. Let a man see that you cannot bear him because he is so bad – you excite his anger. He cannot bear you. This is human nature. Miserable stuff, I grant; nevertheless, the very stuff you have to deal with. And a fine beginning you have made in the scheme of mending a sinner, when, by your fretting, you have brought him to fretting too. Why! You have made him bristle like a porcupine. He says “touch me if you dare.” You have made him set his feet like a mule; and there, in the midst of evil deeds, dogged the perverse – while he pleases, he will stand. And he will please to stand while – you fret. You have made him blind. You made him deaf. And now you may show him truth, pure as the blush of morning; he will not hail it. You may show it to him, vivid as the lightening’s glare; he will not see it. You may peel it to him like the rolling of a thousand thunders; he will not hear it.

Now we may philosophize about this as we please. We may speculate, till we are gray – and lecture, till the season of our stewardship is spent – about the omnipotence of truth; but we cannot make one hair of this matter white or black. It still remains true an angered man is immovable. The omnipotence of Truth notwithstanding – no sinner, since the world has stood, has been converted from the error of his way, or his doctrine, in a passion. – And while the world standeth, no sinner will be. The passion must be subdued – even in the operations of Divine grace – or the truth fails. Wake it up – sustain it; and you have reared a wall of defense and defiance; a wall which must come down ere the citadel can be won.

Now, if fretting ourselves because of evil doers works mischief like this – mars our comfort – and others’ comfort – provokes us to bad deeds – and rouses in those against whom we fret a spirit which prevents their reform – we had better give it up; we had better forswear it forever. We had better hold the truth in righteousness, and “speak the truth in love.” [Ephesians 4:15] We had better – first of all – and last of all – “take heed to our spirits.” [Malachi 2:15]

3. But another reason; – fretting ourselves because of evil doers is unseemly.

It is becoming to feel towards those who do wrong, as Paul did towards his unbelieving “kinsmen according to the flesh;” [Romans 9:3] as Stephen did, when he prayed “Lay not this sin to their charge;” [Acts 7:60] as Jesus Christ did, when he wept over Jerusalem – when he cried “Father forgive them.” [Luke 23:34] But, that it is becoming to feel fretful, in the case, is what none can show.

But, take another view. When we get vexed at evil doers it is not because they abuse God, but because they abuse ourselves, or our fellow creatures. We do not fret at a man because he is unconverted, spiritually; but because he is somehow irregular, outwardly. I have never seen a man cross because his neighbor was not born again. But I have seen hundreds cross because their neighbors–born again, or not – transgressed the second table of the law. Now we ourselves are guilty of deeds more evil than our neighbor’s deeds which anger us. Perhaps we have not, like him, cheated in a bargain; or extorted usury; or sworn profanely; or enticed men to drunkenness; or held our fellow men in bondage; – but, we have done things worse – all of us; we do things worse, all of us, every day. We have done, and do things compared with which the deed of his we fret at, is as a mole hill to a mountain–as a bubble to a world–as a feather to a universe of lead. He wrongs his fellow creature–(for that is the only thing which frets us)–we wrong our God. He treads upon the claims of blood to blood–we, in every error of our lives and secret thoughts, upon those of matchless Grace, of pure redeeming Love.

True – our sin against God is no counterpoise to his against man. His sin is just as heavy and just as ill deserving as though we were sinless. It merits our abhorrence just as much. Our greater wickedness is no reason why we should like or justify his. But it is a reason why we should view his, and bear it too, – without wrath.

It does not become an evil doer to sit in haughty, angry, judgment upon an evil doer. It does not become one who has a beam in his own eye to scowl and chafe at the mote in his brother’s eye.


4. To fret ourselves because of evil doers is wicked.

It is against the Bible. It is as truly disobedience of God as any other thing. It is as openly, as pointedly, disobedience of God. Has he forbidden idolatry? So he has, this. Has he forbidden oppression? So he has, this. Has he forbidden domestic broils–and fraud–and lying–and stealing–and adultery. So he has, this; just as decidedly, just as plainly.

If it be sin to disobey God in one thing–is it not, to disobey him in another? If it be sin to hold flesh and blood of man as chattels, so it is to fret ourselves because of him who does it. if it be sin to be a drunkard, so it is to be vexed against a drunkard. And which is the less and which the greater sin–to be an evil doer in this or that; or–to be an evil doer in fretting ourselves against an evil doer? Which is the least a disobedience of God; and which the most?

True– this fretfulness is natural. It is hard to avoid it. We slip into it unawares. We see the best of men indulge it. And sometimes it seems as though one could scarce do God service–briskly–without it. But all this weighs nothing, nothing, against–“Thus saith the Lord.” “Therefore–thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever though art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself–for thou that judgest, doest the same things.” Thou who frettest against  an evil doer, and he–alike and equally–disobey God.

Another thing will illustrate this sin. What would be your thoughts, and what, your emotions, should I tell you that our Savior used, at times, to foam with passion against evil doers in his day, as you have seen his professed disciples do in yours? You would start at it as blasphemy. Why? If it be not a sin thus to feel toward the wicked–why?

But take another test; for the matter in hand is worth it. –The influence of petulance towards the wicked upon devotion shows it to be a sin. Any feeling which is wrong prevents our access to God. We must first smooth down our ruffled spirits before we can commune at the mercy seat. –Now how is it with an angry, peevish spirit toward the wicked? Does it help, or hinder, prayer? While we are in the heat–are we ready for the communion of our closets–or not? A certain writer answer the question. He says–“prayer is the daughter of charity and the sister of meekness; and he that prays to God in an angry spirit, “is like him who retires into a battle to meditate, and sets up his closet in the out quarters of an enemy, “and chooses a frontier garrison to be wise in. anger is a perfect alienation of the mind from prayer; “and–is contrary to the attention which presents our prayers in a right line to Heaven. For so have I seen “a lark rising from his bed of grass, and soaring upwards, singing as he rises, and hops to get to heaven, “and climb above the clouds. But the poor bird was beaten back by the loud sighings of an eastern wind, “and his motion made irregular and inconstant; descending more, at every breath of the tempest, than “he could recover by the libration and frequent weighings of his wings; till  the little creature was forced “to sit down and pant, and stay till the storm was over; and then–it made a prosperous flight and it did “rise and sing as if it had learned music and motion from an angel, as he passed sometimes through the “air, about his ministries here below.

“So is the prayer of a good man, when anger raises a tempest and overcomes him. Then his prayer was “broken, and his thoughts were troubled, and his words went up towards a cloud; and his thoughts “pulled them back against, and made them without intention. And the good man sighs for his infirmity; “but he must be content to lose his prayer; and he must recover it when his anger is removed, and his “spirit is becalmed, and made even as the brow of Jesus, and smooth like the heart of God: and then is “ascends to heaven upon the wings of the holy dove, and dwells with God, till it returns like the useful “bee, laden with a blessing and the dew of heaven.”

Surely, then, if fretfulness be disobedience of God; if it be contrary to the spirit of our great Example; if it spoil the hours of our closet devotion; there is something wrong about it. It is wicked to be vexed at the ill-behavior of others; as verily wicked as the evil we fret at.


Brethren beloved–there is reason why we should guard ourselves against this sin. Fretting is in vogue. We see it. We hear it–every day. We are tempted to it every day. And, truly, we ought to watch against and resist the temptation–because, God has forbidden the thing–; because, it is unseemly; –because it does much hurt and no good.

In times past we have been guilty. Not one of us but has lost his temper; more or less. Somebody has been lax, and somebody else has been ultra, on some subject of practical moment; and it has made us fretful. Some school boy has been a rogue; some vixen in our families has molested us; some sharper has over-reached us in trade; some canting tyro in politics, or religion, or morals, has aspersed our integrity; silly dupes have gulped the libel; and we–have been nettled about it. –Verily, verily, we have been guilty.

Brethren–suppose we should do better. Suppose we should cleave to the Bible in this matter. Suppose we should mind God. Come–let the past suffice, and more than suffice wherein we have fretted ourselves because of evil doers. In our families, in our streets, in our church meetings, in our enterprises of moral reform, never let us fret ourselves. If heretics and sinners, publicans and Pharisees, thwart us and throw dirt at us–by scores–by thousands–let us never fret. Should the world grow ten times as wicked; should Satan come down with tenfold wrath; nay–should the church of the living God–the family of our espousal and vows, of our hope and love–apostatize; should priest and people go and do abominations, together, on the altar of Belial–whatever else we do, let us never prostitute our own integrity; never let us allow ourselves in a fretful, snarlish temper.

Let us abjure it. Root and branch, let us expel it. We shall be the better. We shall be the happier. We shall die the easier. We shall love each other the more. We shall do the more–a deal more–toward the conviction and reform of evil doers. It would be so strange a thing, if only you and I should look upon the wickedness, and bear the buffetings of evil doers, without ill humor–why! The wicked would suspect us, Christians; and–by the contrast–themselves, sinners. But, however this might be, life would be another thing to us. Our food would be sweeter; our sleep, better; our sunshine, brighter. Our fellowship would be heartier; our pilgrimage, smoother; and the evening twilight of our days, softer.

Brethren–brethren–remember these words–“fret not thyself because of evil doers.” And, remember, THEY ARE GOD’S WORDS. He gave them–to be obeyed. If you care for his approval; if you value the peace which he giveth; if you covet the refreshing dews of his grace–obey his word. “Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good.” “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.”


Sermon – Fasting – 1841, New York




On the Occasion

Of the National Fast;

Delivered Before The

Academy of Sacred Music,

In the Broadway Tabernacle, New York,

On Friday Evening, May 14, 1841.


New York:

Office of the Iris, 647 Broadway,

John S. Taylor & Co., 145 Nassau Street.




Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1841,

By George H. Houghton,

In the Clerks Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York.


Piercy & Reed, Printers, 9 Spruce St.




The introductory remarks of this Address have reference to two things which may be here more distinctly presented. The one is, those widely-circulated notices of the meeting, on the evening of the Fast Day, which were intended to indicate the subject of the Address. This is their form: “Rev. E. N. Kirk will deliver an Eulogy on the Death of the late President Harrison.” These notices are alluded to here, both because of the blunder they contain, and for the wrong impression they were calculated to make. The author of the Oration is not responsible for their awkward use of language, in speaking of an Eulogy on Death, where they meant to promise an Eulogy on the President. And moreover, although the personal qualities of that great and good man are incidentally introduced, yet the discourse was in no way designed to be, nor, we think, can it properly be designated, an Eulogy. The other allusion is to the fears of many excellent persons, that the Academy of Sacred Music would give a secular character to the latter part of a day designed to be as sacred as the Sabbath. Nothing was farther from their desires, nor from those of the speaker. Whether the fears were well or ill-founded, must be determined by those who heard, and by those who now may read.




The specialty of the case may justify a preliminary remark. Many who desire to see this day and its rites so observed as to meet the Divine approbation, and secure the greatest degree of the Divine blessing, have feared that the present exercise might strike and discordant not, and disturb the plaintive harmony of the nation’s dirge. It is of course manifest that we do not participate in this fear. Nor should it be alluded to here, did it not furnish us a good occasion for introducing the fact, that the general estimate of Sacred Music is too low. If the fear is founded upon the notice that there was to be a Concert and an Eulogy on the Death of General Harrison, we are not surprised at it. A Concert given in reality for the public amusement, but calling itself “sacred,” were as ill-timed and sacrilegious, as it were unfair toward those places of professedly secular amusement, which, in deference to public sentiment, have this night closed their doors.

And again; it were as much a violation of good taste, as of religious propriety, to devote the hours of such a day to an “Eulogy on Death,” as your advertisements have it, or an Eulogy on our departed chieftain, as your advertisements partly state and partly imply.

And yet again; if he, who knows not this Academy, nor its principles, aims, and practice, presumes that its members are not acquainted with the true nature of Sacred Music, and its relations to such occasions as the present, and therefore fears that the holy art will be perverted, and the holy season desecrated, we need no other vindication than the exercises of this evening.

But if the fear alluded to, implies that Sacred Music should not occupy the hours of such a day, then we must be indulged in our brief plea. And it is altogether based upon this fact, that the elements of Sacred Music; sacred poetry expressed by appropriate melody and harmony, have not on earth a more appropriate sphere than that which we here assign them.

A nation is mourning its bereavement in mutual condolence! A nation is mourning its sins in lowly prostration before the offended Deity! The active stir of business is suspended, the voice of mirth is hushed, the face of beauty is veiled, the steps of millions hasten tremblingly to the house of prayer – the honorable and the base are gathered in the temples of mercy – ten thousand supplicating voices are raising their imploring cry, “Spare, O Lord, thy people; give not thy heritage to reproach” – the strength of the nation is feebleness before God, lofty looks are bowed, and proud spirits are contrite – intellect, the heart, the will of a free and mighty people lies low before the mighty Governor of the Universe. He has taken away our staff and our strength; He has removed the stay in which we trusted; and thus cast the nation upon his own naked arm; and we are made to feel an awful nearness to the Omnipotent. He has taken away the veil which hid Him and His authority from our unbelieving eyes; and a sinful people seem to be ushered unanointed into the presence where angels tremble, and archangels veil their faces! Well may we weep. We do weep. The voice of lamentation is wafted like the sigh of the summer wind from the Northern Lakes to the Southern Gulf, from the Atlantic Sea to the Rocky Mountains. It is in the presence of Death we are weeping. We had but just rejoiced as a nation. Part of us had honestly opposed the choice; but the choice once made, patriotism carried it over party, and the man of the North West became the man of the country. Never since the first days of the republic, had there been such enthusiasm on the accession of a Chief Magistrate. The heart of the people has honestly, profoundly glad; but scarcely had the excessive, nay, the idolatrous congratulations ceased, ere the whisper of fear began to spread; the sun had barely lifted his cheering disk upon our horizon, ere a dark cloud was drawn toward it by a mighty and invisible hand. The people trembled, they supplicated; but the decree had gone forth; the mercy that would save us from total ruin, arrested us kindly, though sternly; it gathered us around a vacated throne, a pallid corpse, a silent grace, and changed the voice of joy into lamentation; that amid blasted hopes and broken hearts, we might pause to “hear the voice of the rod and him who appointed it.”

Death is always formidable to man as an inhabiter of time and an inheritor of this lovely planet, so full of God’s bounty. We are loth to part from familiar scenes; we are by instinct tenacious of life. And when we see any fellow-creature die, we start as from a spectral hand that writes our own doom. But when death strikes a high mark; when it treads unrelenting upon hopes and hearts, breaks through the life guard of the throne, and despises the supplicating millions; our terror is enhanced. It has entered our palace; it has conquered our unvanquished defender; it has dimmed the eye that watched only for his country’s welfare; it has closed the ear that was quick to a nation’s complaint, and open to the cry of the needy; it has chilled the heart that throbbed with paternal love over the people that called him father; it has palsied that hand, so honestly, so honorably pledged to defend the Constitution, and to execute the laws. As was said of the death of the great Maccabeus, so may we say here: “At the first tidings of this dreadful accident, all the cities of Judah were moved, streams of tears flowed from the eyes of all their inhabitants. They were struck for a time, dumb, immoveable. An effort of grief at length breaking this long and sad silence, with a voice interrupted by sobbings, that sadness, pity and fear are wringing from their hearts, they exclaimed, ‘How is this mighty fallen, he who saved the people of Israel!’ At these cries Jerusalem redoubled her wailings; the vaults of the temple trembled, the Jordan was troubled, and all its banks echoed the sound of these mournful words: ‘How is the mighty fallen, that saved the people of Israel.’”

Yes, the nation feels; and to express her feeling, behold this day of fasting and prayer! Yes, America, “Atheistical America,” who has no national church, no national creed, no national clergy; America is now in the dust before her God. To our friends and to our foes in Europe, who ask, Where is your religion? We reply, Behold it! With you it may be form the state policy to appoint and observe a fast. But with us, none can doubt that it is a genuine expression of public sentiment. Here is no pageant, no pomp, no royal patronage to encourage our piety. It is a free people invited by a man who has and who wishes no other authority than such as the people have given him, to meet the chastisement of our common Father. And we have done it. We have done it, because we recognized that God has afflicted us, and that for our sins. Such is the object of this day and of its exercises. But what can more appropriately enter into the design of this day, than penitential song? It is answer enough to this, to refer to the dirges and elegies of Jeremiah and David. Whether then we contemplate this fast as an expression of true grief or as an act of homage and worship toward a God holy, and yet inclined to forgive the penitent; Sacred Music is a most desirable auxiliary in our solemn public exercises.

But we leave the vindication, and enter more directly upon the designs of this day. In the expressive language of the prophet, we have paused to “hear the rod and him who hath appointed it.” This day has reference to the past and the future. The rod is upon us, and it speaks to us of the sins which is rebukes; and it hath another voice, lessons are rich, varied, most important, nay, indispensable. America, O America! My dear, my native land, hear the voice of the Lord! Americans, my countrymen, shall we not hear this voice; shall we fail to profit by these lessons? Shall we not become better observers of Providence, and commune more closely with Him “in whom we live and move, and have our being?”

The Voice of the Rod

 1. We are learning our dependence on God. Nation after nation, for nearly six thousand years, has been trying to obtain prosperity independently of the favor of Jehovah. The experiment has been fairly made; made under every variety of circumstances. But no one nation has ever yet truly prospered, and answered the true and obvious ends of the social state; because no nation, not even the Jewish, has yet governed itself permanently and faithfully by the will, and under the supreme authority of Jehovah. And hence the most of them have run a career of ambition, crime, and luxury, to dreadful and utter ruin; while others have remained in a state of stagnant, though sometimes splendid barbarism. America sees the open page of history spread before her. Infidelity and Christianity are both expounding it to here, each in its own way. The one says– no, it was simply and solely because they cast off the fear of God.

The political and diplomatic errors which led immediately to their destruction, had their origin in national impiety. The universe waits to see to which Instructor the young republic will accord its faith. Untold and unborn millions await this decision. The exercises of this day ministers of Christ feel as they do feel, their souls pressed with unusual responsibilities. May the Spirit of the Lord be our aid.

The holy oracles proclaim that Jehovah ruleth among the armies of heaven, and doeth his pleasure among the inhabitants of the earth; that it is he who lifts up, and he who casts down. This was believed by our fathers. But the Atheism of the European illuminati rolled its pernicious waves over us soon after the revolution; and we have had many manifestations of that Skepticism which denies to the Son of God the supreme control of human affairs. What, through our dullness, the sacred oracles failed to teach, He has been teaching by the rod of His chastisement. And the lessons have not been in vain.

I select a single specimen of the tone of the secular press in our country, in reference to this fast; a tone to us full of promise for our country:

 “National Fast.– We hope to see evidence that the occasion of the National Fast will not have passed by as a mere formality. We hope to see proofs that the National Heart can be touched by the spirit of devotion.

“It is nearly time that this and other Nations, professing to be Christian, should break some of the links in the base chain that binds them to the foot-stool of Belial, Moloch and Mammon. The spirit of avarice especially should be crushed. It is in this country a whirlpool that is engulphing all, with hardly an exception. The base pursuit of gain, with little regard to the honesty of the means, has become the disgrace of some of those most eminent for intellect, and heretofore highest in public estimation.

“We hope that by divine co-operation the hearts of our countrymen will be ‘touched to finer issues.’ For we are sure that a mere money-loving and money-seeking nation, must sink under the enervating indulgences, which the sordid spirit brings in its train.”

“Then look at the frequency with which the most enormous crimes are perpetrated; the frauds, embezzlements, defalcations, and forgeries, which greet our ears on every side; the prevalence of Sabbath-breaking, intemperance and profaneness, (though in these particulars we hope there has been some amelioration of late.) Look too at the delicate sate of foreign relations. How easily, by an unfortunate turn of affairs, –by the occurrence of some ‘untoward’ event, –may we become involved in a bloody and protracted war! Now these accidents, as we call them, are entirely within the control of the Being before whom if, as individuals, we look at our personal demerit in the sight of the Holy One, surely, taking all these things into account, and a thousand more which will suggest themselves to the reflecting mind, we shall find reason enough for setting apart, as a nation, one day for fasting, humiliation, and prayer.”

 From the Spring of 1837 to the present day, there has been a powerful tendency of the public mind back toward the recognition of a minutely superintending Providence Events which human prudence would not foresee nor provide against, indicated the movings of an invisible hand, and suggested the counsellings of a Superior Will; blow followed blow, cloud came after cloud, until the close of the last political campaign. Then hope revived; and confidence was returning. The country had chosen a tried man, a man whom his enemies opposed, not from personal, but political considerations; who had, in fact, no enemies but such as envy made. There he sat, calm at the helm, inspiring new confidence in our institutions, new hopes for our country. The Lord saw it, and saw that we had not yet learned where to put our trust. And again; the pressure of his hand must be felt. The rod is therefore upon us. It teaches us, that while political sagacity has its sphere, and that a very important one; yet, after all, there remains so many occult which modify and baffle all his plans and enterprises, that man in his very philosophy ought to seek for a sure director of those unseen influences, those hidden but mighty powers, determine the fate of empires. My countrymen – God is teaching us that He reigns over us, that his favor is life. We must learn that lesson, or perish. We must learn to recognize, to fear, to obey, to trust, to supplicate God, who has revealed himself in his Word. We had in the late President all that we can ask in a Chief Magistrate of a Constitutional Government. He met the wants of our hearts as well as those of our judgments; and therefore we loved as well as trusted him. Probably there is scarcely the man living who combines, both in his history and character, so many of the qualifications that office requires. He was evidently fitted of God for the station and its responsible duties. He had the practical talents for governing, which are more needed there than in any other office of the republic. All this has been proved by incontestable evidence. Through a space of at least twenty years, he was called upon to act in the varied character of Commissioner to the Indians, Secretary of the Territory, Legislator, Commander in Chief, and Governor. Here he displayed all those practical talents, that purity of purpose, that knowledge of men, of public affairs, of the principles of government, which his last station demands. He had, in fact been remarkably trained amid the horrors of the border- warfare, the difficulties of treating with the treacherous savage, and the rude settler. But as he rose from station to station, he became more and more the very shield and pillar of that whole North- Western Territory. By treaty he procured the right of the soil, by the prowess of his arm he defended it, by the wisdom of his counsels he governed it. There were times when the Indians renewed their bloody system of border-warfare. Once, shortly after the battle of Tippecanoe, they commenced their depredations on the borders of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, at points so far distant from each other, as to distract public attention and create a universal panic. As the murders became more frequent, and more aggravated by the cruelties which attended their perpetration, the alarm scene of dismay and suffering; the labors of husbandry were suspended, families deserted their homes and sought safety in flight, and Governor Harrison found himself surrounded by fugitives claiming protection, and by sufferers demanding vengeance. There his patriotism and capacity and energy were called into full exercise. The country was put into the best posture for defense, the enemy was met at every point where his approach could be anticipated, and the defenseless inhabitants owed their safety, under God, to his well directed energies. Of his integrity, it is enough to state, that after having had more power than many an eastern prince, over men’s persons and property, more opportunity to enrich himself in appropriating the best lands of the world; by one treaty alone, securing fifty-one million acres of the richest country in the West, and the most valuable mineral region in the Union, he lived and died poor, and that not from prodigality, but integrity. He never used his immense power and influence to procure stations for his own relatives, if we except his private Secretary. And soon after his resignation in the army, while the wants of a large family were pressing upon him, he made up his mind to ask an appointment for one of his sons in West Point. But before he had done it, a poor boy, a neighbor’s child, made a personal application to the General, to secure him a place in the Institution. He immediately waived the application for his son, and procured a place for this poor lad, who is now a distinguished citizen of Indiana. Who can doubt the integrity of that man! Equally strong was his sense of honor, which was to the country a pledge that merit, and not favoritism nor party-interests, would secure the places of trust. A political opponent, who had known him for forty years, said: “General Harrison never had a particle of dishonesty about him; he was honest in politics, honest in religion, honest in everything.” His benevolence which is the antagonist of ambition. There has been much reproach cast upon our government in regard to the Indians; but he who becomes familiar with General Harrison’s history, will not make the charge of cruelty without many and strong qualifications. Harrison was a warrior; and there may have been a mingling of that selfish love of military renown which leads many to enlist cheerfully in the work of blood. But every step of his military career indicates the contrary in his case. Let the historian speak here for a moment: “On the morning of the 27t, the final embarkation of the army on Lake Erie, commenced. The sun shone in all his autumnal beauty, and a gently breeze hastened onward the ships to that shore, on which , it was anticipated, the banner of our country would have to be planted amid the thunder of British arms and the yells of ferocious Indians. While moving over the bosom of the lake–every eye enchanted with the magnificence of the scene, and every heart panting for the coming opportunity of avenging their country’s wrongs, –the beloved commander-in-chief caused the following address to be delivered to his army:

‘The General entreats his brave troops to remember that they are the sons of sires whose fame is immortal; that they are to fight for the rights of their insulted country, while their opponents combat for the unjust pretensions of a master. Kentuckians! Remember the river Raisen; but remember it only, whilst victory is suspended. The revenge of a soldier cannot be gratified upon a fallen enemy.’” The latter sentiment characterized all his military operations, even with the savage tribes. He never drew his sword but for his country and for liberty. It was fiery rampart to our exposed frontier; but it blazed only for defense. And in alluding to his qualifications, we speak once more of his simplicity of character and manner. One who knew him wells, says: “in personal address and manners, he was the very man to be popular in a republican government. He was no aristocrat in democratic disguise; but, a people’s man, he went among the people in the people’s dress, and with the people’s manners.  Though President of the United States, any one could see him even from sunrise in the morning. He had a native courteousness united with the ease and dignity of a Virginia republican. His countenance was goodness, honesty, frankness, and disinterestedness. His eye was emphatically “the light of his body,” a soft, sparkling eye–dark, but gently; and though gentle, full of fire. Mildness and energy were hardly ever more beautifully blended.” Another says, “he was condescending. The poor and illiterate found as ready access to him as the great and learned. Even the children were at home with him, and none but the guilty were embarrassed in his presence.” His views of agriculture, as presented in an address delivered ten years ago, are so entirely accordant with the spirit of our institutions, so utterly opposed to this office-seeking, money-grasping spirit, that now infects the youth of our nation; and at the same time these views are so strongly descriptive of the simplicity and purity of his character, that you will bear their introduction here. “The encouragement of agriculture, gentlemen, would be praiseworthy in any country; in our own it is peculiarly so. Not only to multiply the means and enjoyments of life but as giving greater stability and security to our political institutions. In all ages and in all countries, it has been observed, that the cultivators of the soil, are those who were least willing to part with their rights, and submit themselves to the will of a master. I have no doubt, also that a taste of agricultural pursuits, is the best means of disciplining the ambition of those daring spirits, who occasionally spring up in the world, for good or for evil, to defend or to destroy the liberties of their fellow-men, as the principles received from education or circumstances may tend. As long as the leaders of the Roman armies were taken from the plough, to the plough they were willing to return. Never in the character of General, forgetting the duties of the citizen, and ever ready to exchange the sword and the triumphal purple, for the homely vestments of the husbandman.

The history of that far-famed republic is full of instances of this kind; but none more remarkable than our own age and country have produced. The fascinations of power and the trappings of command were as much despised, and the enjoyment of rural scenes and rural employments as highly prized, by our Washington, as by Cincinnatus or Regulus. At the close of his glorious military career, he says, ‘I am preparing to return to that domestic retirement, which, it is well known, I left with the deepest regret, and for which I have not ceased to sigh through a long and painful absence. Your efforts, gentlemen, to diffuse a taste for agriculture amongst men of all descriptions and professions, may produce results more important than increasing the means of subsistence, and the enjoyments of life. It may cause some future conqueror for his country, to end his career,

“Guiltless of his country’s blood.”

Such views in our day are of incalculable importance and you will excuse their introduction while I am showing what we have lost, in losing such a man. And you will allow one other feature of his character to be mentioned; his patriotism. He was born of a race that have distinguished themselves as lovers of liberty. As far back as Charles I, we find a Harrison, boldly condemning to the scaffold a monarch who as much violated the law of his country, as any murderer does. The father of our hero was signer of the Declaration of Independence, who nobly ceded the Speaker’s chair to Hancock, seizing the modest candidate in his athletic arms, placing him in the chair, and then exclaiming to the members, –“we will show Mother Britain how little we care for her, by making a Massachusetts man our President, whom she has excluded from pardon by a public proclamation.” Such was the descent of General Harrison. He was born and bred in the very school of Washington, and Adams, and Madison. And through the long course of almost half a century, that he was in his country’s service, not an act, not a word, can be adduced that indicates that he preferred anything to the welfare of his country, and the permanence of her institutions. His time, his property, his domestic comfort, the temporal welfare of his family, his life, his fortune, his sacred honor, were laid on his country’s altar; and his dying breath uttered the sentiment, that next to the fear of God, had lain deepest and most cherished in his heart, as it had been the main-spring of his wonderfully active, and efficient, and protracted career– “I wish you to understand the true principles of the government– I wish them carried out– I ask nothing more.” Yes, departed sage, horseman of Israel and the chariot thereof; they shall be carried out, and the last earthly wish of thy noble heart shall be gratified! And in his statement of the principles on which he would govern the country, we have an exhibition of the apparent importance of his presence at the helm of State.

“Among the principles proper to be adopted by any Executive sincerely desirous to restore the administration to its original simplicity and purity, I deem the following to be of prominent importance:

I.        To confine his service to a single term.

II.      To disclaim all right of control over the public treasure, with the exception of such part of it as may be appropriated by law to carry on the public services, and that to be applied precisely as the law may direct, and drawn from the treasury agreeably to the long established principles of that department.

III.    That he should never attempt to influence the elections, either by the people or the state legislatures, nor suffer the federal officers under his control to take any other part in them than by giving their own votes, when they possess the right of voting.

IV.    That in the exercise of the veto power, he should limit his rejection of bills to–1. Such as are, in his opinion, unconstitutional. 2. Such as tend to encroach on the rights of the states or individuals. 3. Such as involving deep interests, may, in his opinion, require more deliberation or reference to the will of the people, to be ascertained at succeeding elections.

V.      That he should never suffer the influence of his office to be used for purposes of a purely party character.

VI.    That in removals from office of those who hold their appointments during the pleasure of the Executive, the cause of such removal should be stated, if requested, to the Senate, at the time the nomination of the successor is made.

VII.  That he should not suffer the Executive department of the Government to become the source of legislation; but leave the whole business of making laws for the Union to the department to which the Constitution has exclusively assigned it, until they have assumed that perfected shape when and where alone the opinions of the Executive may be heard.”

 These are the principles which we had fondly hoped he was going to carry out and execute. To us, they seem inseparable from the dignity of that high office, essential to the healthful action of our political system.  With such an exposition made by such a man, we rejoiced to see him going up to the highest place of power and trust.

Such was General Harrison, considered in reference to the qualifications for the Presidential chair. And such is our loss. But it is the Lord who qualified him, who gave him and who has taken him. Hear then, mourning nation, the voice of the rod. It proclaims our complete, our incessant dependence on a sovereign God. Today let it be engraven on the heart of this people, and let them tell it to their children’s children; that “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and all the people of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.”

2. The dealings of Providence bring to our view our national and personal sins. This blow is but one of a series. The history of the last six years recounts the resources of the Almighty hand, when he means to visit a nation for its sins–fires, storms, disease, wrecks, perplexity, fear, murderers, rumors of war, heart-burnings, volcanic and subterranean thunderings of party strife–public distrust created by an unparalleled series of public frauds, and the breach of the public faith; these have been the inflictions superadded to ordinary inflictions, and to which the vain heart of man pays too little heed. And all these chastisements seemed to have, through our obstinacy, one defect as chastisements; they did not strike suddenly enough, nor with a sufficiently general effect, to make the nation comprehend their meaning. So this last was sent, and may it be the last? This has a two-fold efficacy–it strikes the nation like an electric shock. Probably there was not a hamlet within the broad domain of our empire, in which the cry was not heard in less than one week from its occurrence–the President is dead. And it came too just in the height and heat of the nation’s enthusiasm. Just when they would feel it most, and when the spirit of man-worship was in its most lusty stage. God lifted him up to a nation’s admiration; but at the same time held up the decree– “this day have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion; be wise, now therefore, O ye kings, and be instructed, O ye judges of the earth; serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry.” The space of one short month was given, that like Nineveh we might repent and avert the impending blow. But we repented not, and the rod fell. All our sins are comprehended in this one of rejecting Christ. And all our national sins are personal sins. And the appropriate spirit and employment of this day, is the review of our personal transgressions, and the putting away of our individual atheism and unbelief, our disregard of the supremacy of Christ, and of his precious gospel. He is the true patriot, who this day carries a broken heart to his closet, and mourns over his own and our people’s sins; our worldliness and love of money, our party-spirit, our profanation of the Sabbath, our lewdness and profaneness, our neglect of the Bible and of prayer. “Kiss the Son,” as our Sovereign and your Savior, and let your entire influence be henceforth devoted to securing to him the faith, the homage and the praises of the nation. Let us repent and bring forth fruits meet for repentance. Let the ministry lay aside its sins, the country, the President, the Cabinet, the Law-makers, the Judges, the Princes, and the People all bow down this day before an offended God, and seeking the aids of his grace, promise new obedience to Him who was exalted, in order that to Him every knee might bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of the Father.

3. Let us learn that we must die, and how to die. The dispensation that now afflicts us, impresses on our minds two great realities; – that we must die; and, that personal piety is the only and the essential preparation for that great change. I doubt, if any event in our history has ever called forth so cordial, so extensive and impressive an expression of the genuine conviction of our country. It is remarkable, how earnestly the secular journals have echoed the question–was our noble friend prepared for the great change? And it is as remarkable how full, and how satisfactory an answer Providence is giving to that inquiry. The nation is treasuring up his doings and sayings; but none give such relief to the burdened heart, as those which show him a penitent suppliant for mercy at the foot of the cross. And he did bow there, we fully believe. For several years the claims of his Savior, and the interests of his own soul had been objects of supreme importance in his view. And his were no superficial views of piety as consisting in belonging to a particular sect, or rendering a respectful homage to Christianity in general. He regarded the gospel as designed to penetrate and renovate the heart. He said to a clergyman, “I like your views of repentance; genuine sorrow, humble confession, and a forsaking of sin, are the only things that can bring peace to the sinner, or make him a better man–“How beautifully,” said he, “is the gospel adapted to the wants of the world. God must love the penitent more than the sinless, and the forgiven penitent must love God more than those who never sinned.” And in a full accordance with our views of the nature and intent of the rite, he intended to celebrate the love of his Savior at the sacramental supper. But the facts are before the nation; he loved the Bible, the Sabbath, the ministry, the cause of evangelical religion. His message, penned in the chamber where maternal piety taught his infant lips to lisp the Lord’s prayer, presents to the nation his sense of our dependence upon the power and favor of God.

Let the nation now gather around his silent tomb. By the fresh grave let our young men learn to die. We ask the infidel there; what do you find despicable in piety? Did it make Harrison less intelligent, less energetic, less upright, less patriotic? Let the soul consumed by the feverish thirst of wealth stand there and think of one whose character was never tainted by the foul passion, one who had chosen the good part that can never be taken from him. Let the ambitious pause in his career, and see whether honors are worth so much, when they may be enjoyed so briefly, snatched away so suddenly, so early; whether it is best to sell the soul and gain the world.

Let the friend of his country there see that just what we need in our rulers, is, that conscientiousness and disinterestedness which piety creates. He had the godliness which is profitable for the life that is, and for that which to come.

“It is appointed unto men once to die; and after that, the judgment.” Fellow citizens, are you prepared for judgment? Could his voice be heard amidst us again, think you it would teach you to disregard the mercy of God and to despise his anger? Oh no; my countrymen, no. Pause, pause, he would say; pause ere you rush into the holy presence where my soul is now standing in holy fear and rapture. Young men, cease to struggle for party and for power. Political men, cease your schemes of vain ambition. Where are my laurels now? Behold them already withered in the tomb. Where is the power and glory of my envied elevation? Evaporated by one breath of disease. Where is my soul? Here, where no political party no military renown, no classic lore, no national gratitude, no personal worth, has raised me; but that grace of Christ to which I fled, as a perishing sinner. Living, I would have labored for your temporal good, and I would have labored for your temporal good, and I would have shewn you an imperfect though honest example of obedience to Christ. But that was not permitted me. To my emancipated spirit, it is only permitted to utter one word more of counsel. It is this–“Be ye also ready.”

Sermon – Fasting – 1851, Massachusetts

The Divine right of Government:



Delivered in

Quincy, Massachusetts,

On the Day of

The Annual State Fast,

April 10, 1851,


By WM. P Lunt,

Minister of the First Congregational Church in Quincy.



WM. Crosby and H. P. Nichols,

111, Washington Street,



To William P. Lunt, D. D. Quincy,

Quincy, April 12, 1851.

Dear Sir, –In the belief, that, in times like the present, the pulpit may find a useful auxiliary in the press, the undersigned, with many others who had the good fortune to hear your Fast-day Sermon on the 10th inst. are desirous of obtaining a copy for publication. Your kind compliance with their and our wishes in this regard will much oblige, dear Sir,

Yours very truly,

S. G. Williams

Josiah Brigham

Daniel Greenleaf

Thomas Greenleaf



Ebenezer Woodward

George W. Beale

I.W. Munroe

Gideon F. Thayer

Lysander Richards


To Messrs. S. G. Williams, Josiah Brigham, and others.

Quincy, April 17, 1851.

Gentlemen, – I place at your disposal a copy of the Discourse which you have done me the honor to ask for publication, and am, with great regard,

Your friend and servant,

Wm P. Lunt.



Titus III. 1, 2.

“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers.”


It appears, then, from the text, that there is such a virtue, in the judgment of a Christian apostle, as allegiance to human authority, and that obedience to magistrates is to be found on the catalogue of Christian duties. It may be well for us to keep this fact in mind; because, in the estimation of many at present day, the only test of virtue seems to lie in resistance to the execution of laws, and in disrespect to rulers.

It also appears from the text, that one of the vices against which Christian morality laid an injunction in apostolic times was the vice of an evil-speaker or a brawler. This, too, it may be well for us to bear in mind; because this part of morality seems to be obsolete in the consideration of many in our generation. A man is in no esteem now, if he be not a brawler and an evil-speaker. The Apostle Peter, in one of his epistles, speaks of a class of “presumptuous, self-willed” persons, who “are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.” If the Apostle Peter were alive now he would find a class who are not only “not afraid,” but who esteem it quite commendable, to “speak evil of dignities.” They vilify their magistrates from principle. They appear to regard it as their peculiar mission, and the service which they are sent into the world to perform, to malign the motives and characters of those opposed to them. They set about the service quite deliberately. They have furnished a good deal, by their ingenuity and invention, to enlarge the vocabulary of abuse. Probably the people’s English was never so rich in terms and phrases suited to the purpose of defamation, as, through the contributions of such persons, it has grown to be. What will become of the next generation, if they use faithfully all these weapons of tongue-welfare, which are laid up in the armories of the fashionable philanthropy, and add to them others of their own forging, perhaps of keener edge than any they inherit, it is impossible for our foresight to determine. Certainly there is not a prospect of the earth being possessed by a very amiable society.

By they are doing a good work, they say; they are working for God and for humanity; and this will excuse, they imagine, any methods and instruments that may be employed. Doubtless they are so sincere, and so intent upon the object at which they are aiming, that they are not observant of the consequences of the course they pursue. And they will not, therefore, take it ill, if one who is standing by a cool spectator should undertake to suggest, by way of caution, that their mode of reforming the world may possibly resemble a case which is recorded in the Bible. The unclean spirit against which they are striving may be cast out; but the mischief is, that seven other spirits, more wicked than the one ejected, enter in, and the last state is worse than the first. If we must purchase exemption from one undeniable social evil by the introduction into the system of seven more virulent diseases, surely the world will not be very much of a gainer by the use of such remedies.

Another suggestion may not be regarded inapplicable to those persons who are so fond of “speaking evil of dignities.” The Apostle Jude, in his brief epistle, relates an interesting and instructive incident. He tells us that “Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil” (it was a kind of habeas corpus process served upon the evil one for the body of Moses), “durst not bring against even him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” If this was treating the devil altogether too well, there is very little danger of the Archangel Michael’s example being followed in our day.

It may therefore be deemed not inappropriate to the present occasion, called together as we are by the recommendation of the public authorities, “to consider, in the spirit of Christianity, the private and public sins of this community;” to give our attention specially to the two which are named in the text, –Resistance to the Laws, and Evil-Speaking.

With regard to the first of these sins, – resistance to the laws, – I am aware that there are two classes of persons who will be likely to object to the remarks now to be offered. First, there is the class containing those who will be ready to say that there is no disposition in our community to resist the laws; that, however much opposed our people may be to a particular enactment, they have no wish and entertain no purpose to act in any other than a regular way, through discussion and the ballot-box. It is to be hoped that this course will be pursued. Our people generally have been marked by a love of order, as much as by an inbred, if not an inborn, hatred of oppressions. But we are all composed of inflammable materials; and it is not unlikely that those who kindle into a flame most slowly may burn with the greater fierceness, and keep their unsafe heat for the longer time. When, too, we hear it said, as it has been said among us not once, but repeatedly, and as deliberately as the persons uttering it were capable of, that, Constitution or no Constitution, a certain law shall not be executed; when we hear the most violent language used by those who are looked to as guides, and witness the natural influence of such language upon the temper of persons who are ignorant and impressible; when the pulpit is denounced, if it says a word to support of the Government and Union under which we live; when the coarsest abuse is poured out upon the Judiciary, because they dare to refuse to be made use of for party purposes; – when these things are said and done, surely the coolest may see reason to be alarmed, and the conviction must be forced upon them, that there are some unmistakable symptoms in the midst of our community, of resistance to the laws. The danger is not imaginary, as some are disposed to allege. Nor is it wholly a pretext thrown before the public by designing politicians, who wish to divert attention by sounding a false alarm. There is a factious element in our community; and it will be found far more material to put down, at all hazards, this turbulent spirit, than to oppose any law, however objectionable.

But, besides those who maintain that there is no ground for fearing resistance to the laws, there is among us another class composed of persons who make resistance, passive if not active, to the laws a matter of principle. They assume the right to bring any act of statue of the government to the bar of their individual judgment or conscience; and, if the statute in question does not square with their private notions of justice, they claim the liberty to set it aside. This doctrine has been broached among us; and it finds able, eloquent, earnest advocates. The doctrine in question, it will be observed, goes far beyond any nullification that has been heretofore proposed. The dogma set up in this new school is, – that, without waiting for State action, without the necessity of calling any convention, every individual is competent to consider and pronounce the final judgment upon the laws of the land; that the rule hitherto adopted in our communities – that the majority shall govern – is a false rule; that King Majority is as great a tyrant as King George; that every individual, when he enters into society, promises to obey the Constitution of such society, as he understand that Constitution, not as others interpret it for him; that he is bound to submit only to such laws as he approves, and finds a warrant for in his own judgment. The practical operation of such a dogma is, – that, if any statute conflicts with the conscience of an individual, he will not entertain the question whether his conscience is right, but assume that it is infallible; nor will he entertain the question whether it would be practicable to submit every public act to twenty million consciences, with all the variety that may be found ranging from the inmates of the State’s prison up to the most enlightened and righteous in the land; but that, if the statute in question is pronounced wrong in the court of his private mind, he will set it aside; he will trample upon it; he will annul it. When Louis Fourteenth of France abruptly interrupted some one of his courtiers, who presumed to mention in his hearing the State, – “The State! I am the State,” – it has been thought to indicate the highest point of arrogance that a human being could reach. The pretensions of absolute power, it has been supposed, would be carried no farther. The doctrine of the tyrant is, “My will is law. My conscience is the public judgment. There shall be no appeal from my edicts.”

But is it any less arrogant and assuming for a private individual to say, – “Constitution! I am the Constitution. There shall be no appeal from my conscience to any tribunal or instrument on earth.” Who would have looked, a few years since, to find the most extravagant and high-toned doctrine of absolutism adopted by individuals nominally republicans?

Now, against every doctrine of this kind, against every species of nullification, – that which would bring State laws into conflict with the laws of the nation, as well as that more extreme but equally ungrounded species which would set the decisions of the mind of an individual, call them decrees of conscience or assertions of will, in opposition to the deliberate expression of the public mind, – against every form of nullification, both reason and religion alike protest. Man, in his private relations, may and should be governed by his own sense of right. And if all the separate members that compose society were as scrupulous to apply this inward light, each one to his private walk and personal character, as some are officious in thrusting their peculiar judgments upon the community, it would be well for the world.

But when men come to act together, a multitude of consciences and wills, there must of necessity be some umpire to settle unavoidable differences. There must of necessity be some limits beyond which the freedom of the individual shall be restrained. There must be some standard, some central authority, which shall be sovereign, and beyond which, for the purposes of society, there shall be no appeal. For the purposes of society, I say, this limitation of the individual’s prerogative is indispensable. Thought may still be free; but, when thought expresses itself in overt acts, those acts must be restrained within some fixed and definite bounds. This seems to be unavoidable, if we would maintain any form of human association.

The simple questions, then, for men to ask are, Who shall be the umpire? What power shall fix the limits beyond which the individual shall not go? And what shall be the standard from which no appeal is allowable? These questions, it is well known, have been variously answered in different countries; and, according to the answer given to them, the forms of society, and the political institutions under which men have lived, have varied. In one country the settled polity is, that a single individual, as the autocrat of Russia for example, or the Pope of Rome, called infallible, shall be umpire. He shall arbitrarily, and according to his good pleasure, fix the limits beyond which the wills of his subjects shall not transgress. His mind shall be the standard from which there shall be no appeal. In another country, the aristocracy – those who are accounted the wisest and best in the land – are the ultimate judges of what is right and binding.

Now, we reject both of these standards. We deny the divine right of kings; we deny the infallibility of the Pope. But yet we allow, as all reflecting men must allow, the necessity of some ultimate standard, if we would avoid anarchy, and uphold the order and stability of a social system. How is this problem met and solved in the theory and practice of our free forms of government? We say, – and this is the fundamental principle of our systems, – that the will of the majority, deliberately expressed, and embodied according to wholesome, prescribed forms agreed upon beforehand, and described in written Constitutions, – that this will of the majority shall rule, and that nothing shall set it aside but itself revising and reversing its own acts. This fundamental principle of our institutions has always heretofore been esteemed the best, the safest, the most reasonable rule for determining public questions; and, if we look at the working of this principle, the influence it has actually exerted, the results which have flowed from it, the prosperity and happiness, public and private, to which it has contributed, we must be convinced that it has proved itself by its fruits and beneficent principle. The amazing spectacle which our favored land presents, stretching as it does from ocean to ocean, is a proof that may be seen of all men to the same effect.

It is not maintained by any, that the principle is a perfect one, either theoretically or practically. Doubtless, the majority in any community are liable to error. They may, and sometimes do, commit mischievous mistakes. They may be driven by passion or by interest; or, by the dissemination of false doctrine, may be led deliberately into unjust and pernicious measures. But with all this liability to error, inseparable from the will of the majority, should we be ready to exchange the popular rule, judging of its character by its influence on the whole, for the principle upon which absolute governments are founded? If the action of the majority is wrong in any instance, being grounded in false doctrines whether moral in any instance, being grounded in false doctrines whether moral or political, the only remedy open to us, short of revolution, is to set about rectifying public opinion, so that at some future period the wrong measures may be repealed. If the expressions of the popular will were to be regarded as irreversible decrees which it were unlawful to consider and discuss, in that case there would be some valid reason for complaint. It is true, that, when public opinion gets bent and fixed in any wrong direction, it is no easy matter, and it is not the work of a day or of a year, perhaps not in some cases the work of a single generation or century, to rectify the errors that have been committed, and to put society upon the right track. But is this any reason why a being so short-lived as the individual man is upon the earth should fret and work himself into a passion, and distrust Providence, and oppose his will to the public will, and, if he cannot have his own way, impede, as much as in him lies, the working of social institutions?

Government, therefore, as we may easily convince ourselves, grows out of the necessity of human affairs, although its form may and does vary in different countries and periods of time. But whatever form it may assume, and however much it may be improved, it will always be an imperfect instrument, involving evils of greater or less magnitude, and for ever failing to correct social inequalities, and to bring the condition of mankind upon the earth to that point of absolute justice and right of which the human mind can form an ideal conception. Nor is this any good reason why men should give over all effort to better their condition, and to bring the actual state of society more nearly up to the level of their ideal standard. Let such efforts be unceasingly made by the wise and benevolent of successive generations. But, in laboring for a good which they have not attained, let them not put to hazard the manifold blessings they already possess. With all its imperfections, and failing, as it does, to accomplish much that the heart of man earnestly desires to attain, there is yet a sacredness attached to government which is a wholesome sentiment; and although there are cases when rulers may be rightfully resisted, and when revolution is a duty, yet these are extreme cases, and require for their justification the most imperative necessity.

The sentiment of the sacredness of government is expressed and enforced in the Scriptures very emphatically. The words of the Apostle Paul, for example, are often quoted to enforce this sentiment, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Although these words have too often been misinterpreted, as if they were designed to uphold and justify absolute governments, and to inculcate passive, unresisting submission to laws, however unjust and oppressive; one sentiment they do at least convey, namely, the divine right of government, the majesty and sacredness of public law, and the consequent venerableness of those who are invested and authority. He who allows himself to speak evil of magistrates dishonors himself as one of the people from whom those magistrates derive their delegated power. And therefore it is a just and well-grounded maxim for every good citizen, that a magistrate, when he has been fairly chosen to office, whether we ourselves helped to elect him or not, is entitled to respect until he may forfeit it by some unworthy act.

The Divine Right of Government! This is eminently a Christian sentiment. The divine right of kings is a fiction formerly entertained very widely by the human mind, but which has vanished before the clear light of intelligence and Christian truth. The divine right of any particular form of government, in preference to any other form, will not bear the test of examination. But the divine right of government as opposed to anarchy; the necessity, established by God himself in our constitution and condition, for some restraint upon the wills of individuals; the essential sanctity of law, – this is a sentiment which no changes to which the human mind is subject can impair. Reason and Scripture, with united voice, say to men: “Choose you, as wisdom may dictate, under what form of civil society you will live. Determine, as you like best, where the sovereign authority shall be lodged from which there shall be no appeal. If you are oppressed by intolerable burthens and unjust exactions, rise up against the tyranny, and shake it off; do this calmly, in the fear of God, and not without a prudent calculation of the hazards. However, do the work, hazardous as it is, if you are convinced that it must be done, and strive to place yourselves in a position more favorable for your happiness.” But Reason and Scripture add this caution to the liberty which is granted to men: “Remember, you cannot choose whether you will live under some government or none at all. This is not – this never has been– this never will be the alternative offered to mankind.” Nor, because a government fails to come up to the ideal standard we form in our minds, and to accomplish all the unmixed good we could desire, are we at liberty to disallow its claims, and to fall back upon our own individual judgments.  It is with government as with all earthly blessings, even the best: we take it, and we take them all, “for better or for worse,” “until death do us part.” Authority supreme, from which there shall be allowed not appeal, must reside somewhere. God, who desires the highest good of communities, has instituted government for the promotion of that good. Government, therefore, is not only to be submitted to as a necessity, nor merely to be look upon as an institution quite useful to society, but the Christian citizen will look upon it as a shield which Heaven has interposed between what he most loves and what he most dreads; he will regard it with veneration, as type, however imperfect, of that divine sovereignty which rules the universe; as a branch of that law whose “seat is the bosom of God.” This is the doctrine in regard to governments, magistrates, and laws which Christianity plainly inculcates.

And assuredly there never was a time when our community stood more in need than now of the influence of this great conservative sentiment of the divine right of government, and of such precepts as those contained in the text, to moderate the excitement which exists against an obnoxious law. To examine with the utmost freedom, consistent with decorum, all public measures, is a clear and indisputable right, which none of us would willingly surrender. To discuss the laws of the land, to point out their defects, to argue their inconsistency with the Constitution, to criticize their details, or to object to the principle they involve; to point out, by fair reasoning, their opposition to natural justice and to the duties of religion; to urge their repeal on the ground either of their transcending the powers lodged with the lawmaking branch, or if clearly within the scope of their authority, yet as unadvisable exercises of that authority, under a complex system which depends very much for its harmonious working on compromise, concession, and forbearance, – all this is allowable surely. But while this process for rectifying public sentiment, necessarily slow, requiring long periods of time it may be, and calling for much patience before the object is gained, – while this process is going on, the obnoxious law must be executed, or there must be a revolution. And amidst the complicated affairs of this world, where nothing corresponds to the principles which we are apt to regard best, we are forced to decide between submitting to a wrong for which we are not responsible, or hazarding the existence of those social safeguards upon which all our most valued blessings rest.

It should be borne in mind, too, that there are consciences on both sides of such a question as now divides our community; that there are convictions equally strong, equally enlightened, equally pure and honest, on both sides. It is neither justifiable nor sufferable for a person to assume, that the motives of himself and of those who agree with him are right, and that all opposed to him are acting under the influence of interested, immoral, and unchristian motives. The only fair view of the case is, that there is a conflict of consciences equally honest. And, in such an exigency, what can be done, what do the necessary imperfections of the social state allow to be done, except to submit to the umpire which we have voluntarily and deliberately adopted, – the will of the majority; to defer to the best judgment touching the matter in dispute, which the body of the community is capable of arriving at for the present, and to trust to the enlightening influence of causes now at work, to produce a better state of public opinion hereafter?

This conflict of consciences among men that think at all, and that are able to exercise the faculty of judgment on moral subjects, demonstrates the imperative necessity of some government, that is, of some established umpire, whose decisions, if not always wise and right, if even they may at times be unjust, are far better fore society than infinite wranglings among those who will consent neither to give over their disputes, nor to refer their differences to any earthly tribunal. What society needs, in order that the great interests of man which are aimed at in social institutions should be promoted, is some chance for repose. It were but poor amends for the evil of never-ending, bitter strife, to say that the combatants are conscientious. If they are conscientious in quarrelling, there ought to be some power somewhere in the world that shall be conscientious in putting a stop to their quarrels. We are bound to consider what must be the consequence, if, in every collision that occurs between private conscience and public law, we apply the doctrine that we may set aside a portion of that public law. Where can this doctrine end but in the sovereignty of every individual? – a state of things very much resembling that which is described in the Book of Judges, – “In those days there was no king in Israel; but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” And as the wise man tells us, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes.” There is not an article in any Constitution that now exists upon earth, or in any Constitution that could be devised by the wit or wisdom of man, to which the honest or the contentious conscience of some individual might not be found to object. If a person should feel impelled by his conscience to aim a murderous weapon at my life, or to appropriate to himself a portion of my substance, or to vilify and slander my good name (and all these things have been done very conscientiously), I should pray to be protected from that man’s conscience.

What other conclusion, then, can wise, practical men come to, but to allow the laws of the land, which have been enacted in due form, to have their course and be executed, until we can so far change the current of public opinion that what is objectionable in those laws may be corrected?

Among the great, wise, and good men who met in convention more than sixty years since to frame the Constitution of the United States, under which we have lived and prospered thus far, was Benjamin Franklin, known all over the world for his genius, his virtue, and his usefulness. At that time, he was eighty-one years old. He had learned all that he was likely to learn upon earth. He had all but finished his mortal career, and therefore was not open to the charge, from the most captious, of being influenced by interested motives. In a speech that he made at the close of the convention, he said, among other good remarks; “I consent to this Constitution, because I expect not better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors I sacrifice to the public good. On the whole, sir, I cannot help expressing a wish, that every member of the convention who may still have objections to it would with me on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and, to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.” Such was the language of Franklin on a memorable occasion. I would seek to strengthen the good sense and practical wisdom of his words, not by any language of my own, but by the inspired world of Holy Writ: “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers.” This is the charge given to a Christian teacher and minister in early times; and the same charge is given, as I understand the matter, to the servants of the altar now. If the time shall ever come when it shall be deemed the legitimate office of the Christian pulpit to preach revolutionary doctrines, and to instigate the minds of men to resistance to the laws of the land, it will be time, too, for the people to consider whether the pulpit is worth upholding. God grant that that time may never come!