Sermon – Solar Eclipse – 1806

Joseph Lathrop (1731-1820)

Lathrop was born in Norwich, Connecticut. After graduating from Yale, he took a teaching position at a grammar school in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he also began studying theology. Two years after leaving Yale, he was ordained as the pastor of the Congregational Church in West Springfield, Massachusetts. He remained there until his death in 1820, in the 65th year of his ministry. During his career, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from both Yale and Harvard. He was even offered the Professorship of Divinity at Yale, but he declined the offer. Many of his sermons were published in a seven-volume set over the course of twenty-five years.

In this sermon, Rev. Lathrop uses the occasion of a recent solar eclipse to strengthen the Biblical worldview of his parishioners by providing both a scientific explanation and gleaning spiritual truths from the phenomenon. Lathrop’s sermon is a clear example of how early American pastors used the events of their time to impart truth and develop the Christian worldview of their listeners.


By Joseph Lathrop, D. D.
Pastor of the first Church in West-Springfield

AMOS 8:9
It shall come to pass in that day; saith the Lord, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.

Amos was bred an husbandman and a shepherd. From his rural employment he was called to the office of a prophet. He says, “I was not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but I was an herdman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. And the Lord took me, as I followed the flock, and said unto me, go, prophesy unto my people Israel.”

Many expressions in his book are taken from observations, which a shepherd would naturally make in attending to the business of his calling. In Judea the shepherds watched their flocks, not by day only, but also by night, to guard them against beasts of prey, in which that country abounded. And, in their attendance on their flocks, they would naturally observe the motions of the planets, and the appearances in the heavens, that they might foresee changes of weather and approaching storms. Hence the prophet, calling on the degenerate tribes of Israel
to renounce their false gods, and to worship the great author and governor of nature, uses a language suggested by his former pastoral occupation. “Seek not Bethel, enter not into Gilgal, nor pass to Beersheba,” the idolatrous places, where the sun and moon, and hosts of heaven were worshipped; “but seek him, who maketh the seven stars and Orion; and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night.”

The stated course of nature, the order of the heavenly bodies, the vicissitude of day and night, and the regular succession of seasons, demonstrate the existence and providence, the wisdom, power and goodness of God. “Day unto day uttereth speech; night unto night sheweth forth knowledge.” “God hath not left himself without witness, in that he giveth rain and fruitful seasons, and filleth our hearts with food and gladness.” But common appearances, as they become more familiar, are less impressive. Unusual phenomena, though no less the effects of natural causes, more powerfully arrest the attention, and more deeply affect the mind. The prophet, therefore, predicting some dire calamities on the house of Israel, alludes to an unusual and solemn appearance in the skies, which probably they had lately seen; a total eclipse of the sun in the midst of a clear day. “Thus saith the Lord, I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.” The phenomenon which we beheld, on Monday last, will naturally lead us to understand the words as poetic descriptions of a solar eclipse.

Archbishop Usher, in his annals of the world, says, that in Amos’s time, there were two remarkable eclipses of the sun, which happened at solemn festivals, and struck the people with great consternation. In ancient times, when astronomy was but imperfectly understood, eclipses were by many considered, as preternatural and portentous. The prophet, therefore, foretelling the judgments coming on the land of Israel, might with great propriety figure to them the changes soon to take place in their political hemisphere, by an allusion to the change, which they had seen, with terror and amazement, in the natural hemisphere. “God would cause their sun to go down at noon, darken the earth in the clear day, turn their feasts into mourning, and their songs into lamentation, and bring up sackcloth on all loins.”

The use, which the prophet makes of a solar eclipse will justify us in some moral and religious reflections on the singular scene, which was exhibited in the past week.

1. We have reason to rejoice in the progress, which has been made in the sciences, and particularly in the noble science of astronomy. By this we are freed from many superstitious terrors, which, in the dark ages of the world, tormented mankind.

Eclipses have been observed from the remotest antiquity; and of these which were most remarkable, accounts have been transmitted to us by some of the earliest historians, who have also related the disastrous events which followed, and which the eclipses were supposed to portend.

The cause of eclipses must have been known long before they could be the subjects of mathematical calculation. It was well understood, many ages ago, that an eclipse of the moon was caused by its passing through the shadow of the earth, when the earth was between that and the sun; and that an eclipse of the sun was caused by the moon’s passing between us and the sun, and intercepting its light. This knowledge, however, was not common to the vulgar; nor did the more learned view these causes as operating by regular and stated laws.

There were predictions of some eclipses, which appeared several centuries before the birth of our Savior. But these predictions were probably, like the present predictions of comets, conjectures grounded on a course of observations, and not the result of exact calculations.

The relations, distances and motions of the heavenly bodies are now so well ascertained, that accurate calculations can be made of all the eclipses, which shall be in ages to come, and of those which have been, since our system was framed. These calculations are of great utility to mankind, in husbandry, navigation, geography, chronology and history. The credit of some ancient histories derives confirmation from this source. The historian relates some great events, which he supposes, were portended by a certain eclipse, which he describes. The astronomer finds, that there was in fact, such an eclipse, at such a time, and hence justly gives more full credit to the historian.

These phenomena have also their moral uses. They enlarge our views of the works of God, and of the grandeur and extent of his creation and providence. They display his wisdom, power and goodness, and his continual agency in the government of the world. They teach us his constant care for the creatures, which he has made, and call us to reverence and adore him, who thus manifests himself to us in the works of his hands.

We see innumerable worlds rolling around us at vast but various distances; with different, but inconceivable rapidity. These all perform their motions with regularity, and observe their times with exactness. They obey their destination, they keep their order, they never interfere. Shall we not fear the power, admire the wisdom, adore the goodness of that being, who made and adjusted, who sustains and directs such a stupendous system, and render it subservient to our happiness? These rational sentiments are pleasant and delightful in themselves; and are far more conducive to piety and virtue, than the terrors of that superstitious ignorance, which views every comet flaming in the sky, every obscuration of the sun at noonday, every failure of the full orbed moon at night, every unusual noise bursting from the clouds, every strange appearance in the heavens and in the earth, as awfully portentous of some dire, but unknown calamity.

Superstitious terrors may operate as a temporary restraint from vice. But when the dreaded calamity is delayed, the restraint ceases, and vice regains its dominion. A rational fear of God, arising from a calm contemplation of his agency and government, displayed in his works, and taught in his word, will have a steady and permanent influence. “Fear ye not me, saith the Lord, will ye not tremble at my presence, who have placed the sand for the bound of the sea, who give the former and the latter rain, and reserve to you the appointed weeks of harvest?” The more just are our thoughts of God’s government, and the more rational our reverence of his majesty, the more uniform and cheerful will be our obedience to his will.

2. An eclipse of the sun, though it is not an omen of any particular calamity, yet may properly lead us to contemplate the gloomy changes which await us in this guilty and mortal state.

By a total obscuration of his glorious luminary, at noon, in a clear day, a gloom is suddenly spread over the face of nature. Not only the human mind, but the animal and material creation is deeply affected. Night seems to anticipate the time of its return. The stars hand out their lamps; the dews descend on the earth; the grazing beasts forget their hunger; the fowls hasten to their resting places; the bird of night chants his evening ditty; every thing wears a sober and mournful aspect.

Here is an emblem of declining age and approaching death.

The time is coming – to some of us it is near; when the sun and the light will be darkened; the eyes, which look out at the windows, will be bedimmed, surrounding objects will be hidden, and “we shall go to our long home – to the land of darkness and the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.” “While we have the light, let us walk in the light, lest darkness come upon us. Let us give glory to God, before he cause darkness, and before our feet stumble on the dark mountains; lest, while we look for light, it be turned into the shadow of death.” The eyes of our understanding still remain unextinguished, and the sun of righteousness shines upon us with salvation in his beams. Let us attend to the glorious discoveries which are made to us, and apply ourselves to the momentous work before us. Let us work while it is day. The time is short – night is at hand. What we find to do, let us do it with our might. There is no work in the grave.

Some of you are in youth and in full strength. My friends, your morning sun shines bright and pleasant; you think your day will be long. But, oh! flatter not yourselves. Your sun may go down at noon, and your prospect be darkened in a clear day. Employ these morning hours in the work of your salvation. You know not what a day, or an hour may bring forth.

The darkness of an eclipse the prophet improves, though not as an omen, yet as an emblem of national judgments. He warns his people that a metaphorical and political darkness may overspread their country, in the same surprising manner, as literal darkness in a solar eclipse falls on the unsuspecting earth. “Thus saith the Lord unto me, an end is come upon my people; I will not pass by them any more. Hear this, ye that swallow up the needy, and that say, when will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn, and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat? The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, surely I will not forget any of their works. Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? Thus saith the Lord, I will darken the earth in the clear day. I will turn their feasts into mourning, and their songs into lamentation.”

Sudden darkness caused by eclipses, clouds, vapor and storms, is, in the prophetic writings, a common figure for great and unexpected plagues; such as war, discord, pestilence and famine. The prophet Isaiah, describing the calamitous state of the Jews, on the invasion of the Chaldeans, says, “They shall look to the earth, and behold, trouble and darkness, and dimness of anguish; they shall be driven into darkness.” In the same figurative language, Joel describes the devastation and famine caused in the land by clouds of devouring locusts, and by the rage of subsequent fires. “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord cometh and is nigh at hand; a day of darkness and gloominess, of clouds and thick darkness. There shall be wonders in the heavens and in the earth; there shall be pillars of smoke, and the sun shall be turned into darkness.”

When we see the sun darkened in the heavens, and the earth covered with a gloom, we are reminded, how easy it is for Him, who in a moment extinguishes the sun, to cast a cloud over our earthly prospects; to turn our joys into anguish, our confidence into terror, and our songs into lamentation – to subvert our national security, to let loose the infernal spirit of discord, to remove restraint from hostile nations, to send a blast on the labors of our hands, and to spread among us pestilence and death.

On God we are dependent not only for the daily visits of the sun, but also for his friendly beams, when he returns. The moon, which chases away the gloom of night, now and then steps in, and intercepts the light of day. If it should
make a stand in that position, our day would become night, and the warmth of summer would be changed into the frost of winter. But the moon obeys the divine command, moves the cheering beams, which it had, for a few moments withholden.

The creatures, which are our ordinary comforts, may by God’s direction or permission, become the occasions of affliction and anguish. The sun, which enlivens the rational, animal and vegetable world, may dart malignant fires and scatter pestilential
diseases. The rains, which refresh and fructify our fields, may “wash away the things which grow out of the earth, and destroy the hope of man.” The friends in whom we confide may become our tormentors, and “a man’s foes may be those of his own household.” Government, which is our defense against injustice, fraud and violence, falling into the hands of cruel and unprincipled men, may be made an instrument of oppression and misery. “They who lead us may cause us to err, and destroy the way of our paths.”

Where then is our security? It is in the protection of Him, who created and upholds the frame of nature, “who made and guides the seven stars and Orion, turns the shadow of death into the mourning, or makes the day dark with night” – “who calleth to the waters and sends them on the earth, and restrains the floods” within the bounds prescribed – “who rules the raging of the sea, and stills the tumults of the people” – ” who turns the hearts of men, as the rivers of water are turned” – “who causes the wrath of men to praise him, and the remainder of that wrath he restrains.” How shall we enjoy his protection ? He has told us, “If ye will walk in my statutes, keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary, then I will give you rain in due season, your fields shall yield their increase; I will give peace in your land, and ye shall lie down and none shall make you afraid.” – “But if ye will walk contrary unto me, I will walk contrary unto you, and make your plagues wonderful.”

Learned astronomers can calculate with exactness the times when, the places where, and the quantities in which the luminaries of heaven will be eclipsed; but they cannot with the same accuracy predict the judgments of God. Nor do we here need their astronomical skill. There are other signs by which we may discern impending judgments. Our Savior. has taught us a kind of moral astronomy to direct our prescience of such events. The prevalence of infidelity, immorality and vice as surely indicates approaching calamities, as clouds indicate a shower, winds forebode a storm, or the conjunction, or opposition of the sun and moon, in certain places in the heaves, presignify an eclipse. He said to the people, “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straitway, ye say, there cometh a shower; and so it is. When ye perceive the south wind blow, ye say, there will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it, that ye cannot discern this time? Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” The blindness and stupidity of the ancient Jews to the impending judgments of God, the prophet upbraids by referring them to the sagacity and discernment apparent in the fowls of heaven. “The stork in the heavens knoweth her appointed time; the turtle, the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people knoweth not the judgments of God.”

There are now, as there were in former times, many who ask, “Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” And the watchman’s answer then, is seasonable now, “If ye will inquire, inquire ye” wisely; “return, come,” return to God by repentance; then come and inquire, and you may hope for a favorable answer.

It is common for people to look forward and inquire, what will be our national state in future years – what will be the result of certain public measures – what shall be done to obtain this favorite object, and avert that threatening evil, and to make future times better than these? But they inquire not wisely concerning this matter. Let them inquire what iniquities abound, and what share their own iniquities have in the common guilt? Let each one repent of his own wickedness, and apply himself to his own duty. Let each one use his best influence to correct the errors, and reform the manners of those with whom he is connected. Then things will go well. “Righteousness will exalt a nation. Sin will be a reproach to any people.”

3. The darkening of the earth in a clear day brings to mind the final judgment. The scripture assures us, that “God has appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness, and render to every man according to his works.” It teaches us, that the judgment will come on a guilty world by surprise – that “when men shall say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh.” The manner of its coming is compared to the catastrophe of Sodom. “As it was in the days of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought, they fold, they planted, they builded. But the same day, that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone out of heaven, and destroyed them all. Even so shall it be in that day when the son of man is revealed.” To heighten the solemnity of this scene, the sacred writers tell us, “The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light; the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken – the heaven shall depart as a scroll when it is rolled together, and every mountain and island shall be removed out of their place.” What effect the expectation of such a day should have, St. Peter instructs us. “Seeing all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hastening unto the day of the Lord. Let us be diligent, that we may be found of the Lord in peace without spot and blameless.”

You think that great day to be remote. Perhaps it is so. But whether it be near or remote, it will come. And when it shall come, it will be as real and important, as if it were now present. “Count the longsuffering of God’s salvation. He is not willing that you should perish, but that you should come to repentance.”

Were you sure, that within ten or twenty years, the frame of nature, as well as the works of man, would dissolved, the heavens with all their splendors would vanish, and the earth with all her furniture and in habitants would pass away, how vain would all your property, all your designs and labors appear? What folly would be stampt on avarice, ambition, worldly grandeur and ostentation, political intrigues, party contests and animosities? But, my fellow mortals, where is the mighty difference to you and me, whether the world is to be dissolved within twenty years, or whether within that time we are to leave the world forever. The latter will certainly be the case with many of us in a shorter, and with all of us in a little longer time than this. Under an impressive sense of this solemn truth, let us banish all worldly passions, and direct our cares to the grand interests of futurity.

4. Total darkness at noonday reminds us of the solemn scene of the Savior’s crucifixion. The evangelists tell us, that when Jesus hung on the cross, “there was darkness over all the land from the sixth to the ninth hour;” or, according to our calendar, from midday to the third hour; “and the sun was darkened.” The darkness continued for three hours. This, we know, could be no natural eclipse; for, in the eclipse of the week past, which appeared to be central, the total obscuration continued but about four minutes.

The darkness at the crucifixion was very extensive. It was “over all the land.” Yea, it was beyond the land of Judea; or “over all the earth,” as the words are, in one place, rendered. It was observed in countries distant from Judea; and is related by profane historians, as a phenomenon, for which no natural cause could be assigned. In a natural eclipse, the total darkness cannot be of very great extent. I have had correct information, that within the space of less than two hundred miles, from north to south, a segment of the sun appeared during the whole time of the late eclipse.

Nay, farther, at the time of the crucifixion there could be no natural eclipse, for the sun and moon were then in opposition. Christ was crucified at the time of the Passover. The Passover was to begin on the fourteenth day of the month. The Jewish month began at the first appearance of the new moon. On the fourteenth day, the moon, being full, and in opposition to the sun, could not cause an eclipse. The obscuration therefore must have been preternatural and miraculous.

That there really was such an obscuration is indubitable. It is recorded by three of the evangelists, who published their narrative so soon after the crucifixion, that many spectators of the scene, both friends and enemies to Christ, were still living. They would not have asserted such a strange phenomenon, as being universally known, in that and neighboring countries, and as having happened on a certain day, if it had not been a fact; for every man, woman and youth, living at that time, would have been able to contradict it. Had the evangelists been impostors, they would not have published a falsehood of this kind; for nothing could have been more fatal to their cause. There is no room to question the reality of the fact.

This darkness, the earthquake, and the rending of the veil of the temple, which occurred at the same time, had a great effect on the spectators. The commanding officer, who stood by the cross of Jesus, struck with astonishment, said, “Surely this was the son of God.” “And all the people, who came together to that sight, beholding what was done, smote their breasts, and returned.”

These miraculous appearances in the earth and in the heavens, at the time, when Jesus was suffering on the cross, were such divined attestations in his favor, as reason could not resist; and they were also most awful indications of the wrath of God against the horrid and impious work, which the infidel Jews were then transacting.

But were these the only persons against whom the darkness denounced the anger of heaven? No; it equally manifested, and still it manifests the amazing guilt of all unbelievers under the gospel – of all who are enemies to the blessed Jesus – of all who despise and oppose his religion.

Infidelity and impiety involve in them the same guilt now as in former times. The gospel comes to us with equal evidence and authority, as it came to the Jews. They who reject it, crucify afresh its heavenly author, and are bringing on themselves swift destruction – to such is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. As they walk in the darkness of unbelief and wickedness, they will fall into the darkness of misery and despair. “When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, he will come in flaming fire, and will take vengeance on them who know not God, and on them who obey not the gospel.”

5. The temporary darkness of an eclipse is followed with cheerful light, which “shines more and more unto the perfect day.” This is a natural emblem of that moral change, in which a soul is brought out of the darkness of sin and guilt into the marvelous light of purity, pardon and peace.

How sad and gloomy is the condition of a guilty mortal, who convinced of his numerous transgressions, feels himself condemned to eternal death. The divine law, which was delivered. From Sinai, in smoke and darkness, in clouds and tempest, thunders terror and destruction in his ears. But how happily is his state reversed, when light, beaming from mount Zion, in the discoveries and promises of the gospel, breaks in on his soul, exhibits to him a dying Savior, a forgiving God, a sanctifying spirit? What joy springs up, when he finds the power of sin subdued – his enmity to God slain – his opposition to the gospel conquered – and every thought captivated to the obedience of Christ? The light is ceding to previous darkness. So the hopes and comforts of religion in the soul are exalted by their contrast to preceding anxieties and fears.

Ye awakened, desponding souls, look up to the sun of righteousness. He shines from heaven with salvation in his beams. However guilty, unworthy and impotent ye feel, there is grace sufficient for you; there is righteousness to justify you, promises to support you, the spirit to help you. Light arises in darkness. Turn your eyes from the cloud, and direct them to the sun. Christ came a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in him should not walk in darkness. Look to him, and be ye saved.

Finally: the obscuration of the sun in the sky bids us contemplate the uninterrupted brightness of the heavenly state. Could we rise above the moon, the sun which is eclipsed to the inhabitants of the earth, would shine to us in all its splendor. When the Christian has the moon under his feet, he will be clothed with the sun, and crowned with stars.

There is no darkness, no night in heaven: all is light; all is glory there.

In heaven there is the light of purity, and love. The pure in heart shall see God; he is light; in him is no darkness. Nothing enters into his presence that defiles.

There is the light of knowledge – glorious discoveries of God – of the Savior – of the works of providence and grace – of the wonders of creation and redemption. Here we see through a glass darkly; there we shall see face to face. Here we know in part, there we shall know as we are known.

The light of heaven is constant; it is never eclipsed nor clouded. The holy city needs not the sun to shine in it, for the glory of God doth lighten it, and Jesus is the light thereof. The nations of them who are saved shall walk in the light of it, and there shall be no night there.

How different will be the state of good men in heaven from that which they experience on earth? Here they have some light, but it is often interrupted, and always dim. How little do they know of God and his works – how much error is mixed with their faith – how much doubt with their hope – how much fear with their courage; how much carnality with their devotion? In heaven it will be otherwise. Knowledge there will be full without error, certain without perplexity and clear without confusion. Holiness will be perfect without sin, and refined without dross and corruption. And they will serve God continually without reluctance or weariness.

Let us begin the life, and accustom ourselves to the works of heaven, while we dwell on earth, that we may be prepared for admission into heaven, when we depart hence. Here God sheds down some beams of heavenly light to invite our thoughts and affections upward. The light is mingled with shades, and interrupted with clouds, because this is a state of trial, and our faith and patience must be exercised. Here we must walk by faith; we cannot walk by sight. “It is by faith and patience, that we inherit the promises.” “We are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? And if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. And the spirit helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us according to the will of God.”

It is but little, that we can at present know of heaven; but “then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.” Let our souls follow hard after him; for what is there, which we can desire in comparison with him? “It doth not yet appear what we shall be. But when our Lord shall come, we trust, that we shall be like him and see him as he is. And having this hope, let us purify ourselves as he is pure.”



Sermon – Thanksgiving – 1815

John Lathrop (1740-1816) Biography:

John Lathrop, also spelled Lothrop, was born in Norwich, Connecticut. He graduated from Princeton in 1763 and began working as an assistant teacher with the Rev. Dr. Eleazar Wheelock of Lebanon, Connecticut, at Moor’s Indian Charity School. He studied theology under Dr. Wheelock (who later founded Dartmouth College) and became licensed to preach in 1767, ministering among the Indians. In 1768, he became the preacher of the Second Church of Boston, but as Boston was central in the rising tensions and violence with the British leading up to the American War for Independence, he relocated to Providence, Rhode Island. When the Founding Fathers declared independence from Britain in 1776, Lathrop returned to Boston. When Dr. Pemberton of New Brick Church was taken ill, Lathrop was asked to become the assistant to the pastor. When Pemberton passed away a year later, Lathrop became pastor of New Brick Church but also retained the pastorate of Second Church, merging it into New Brick in 1779. Lathrop remained pastor until his death from lung fever in 1816. He had served as President of the Massachusetts Bible Society and the Society of Propagating the Gospel in North America, and he was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Antiquarian Society. Numerous of his sermons were published.












“Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk you of all his wondrous works.”

NEVER, my friends, did we assemble with more cheerful hearts to offer praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God, than we do on the present occasion. Never have we witnessed joy more universal than the joy expressed by the American people at the return of peace. This event, like the sun breaking from a cloud, hath scattered the darkness which hung over our afflicted country, and given new spirits and new life to many who were “bowed down to the dust,” and “covered with the shadow of death.”

On such an occasion, it is highly proper, that people professing the Christian religion, do assemble in places of worship, and offer praise and thanksgiving to Him who ruleth over the nations, and turneth the hearts of the kings, and of the mighty men of the earth, as the waters are turned.

Not only the people of our country but the greatest part of the Christian world, have been in deep affliction. Modern history presents no period to our recollection, in which the miseries of war have been more generally felt, than during the last few years; and it is with great pleasure that we hear, peace was no sooner restored to the bleeding nations of Europe, than the temples of the Most High were filled with praises and thanksgivings.

As the American people were the last to take the cup of affliction, which the Sovereign of the world hath caused to pass from one nation to another, so are they the last, but we trust, not the least, in sincere and humble gratitude, to the giver of all mercies for granting salvation to many millions of people, by a general peace.

The text points out to us a course of exercises, proper on the present occasion. We are called upon by a sense of gratitude; by a recollection of the benefits which a merciful God hath bestowed upon us, – we are called upon to give thanks, – to worship Him, – to talk of all his wondrous works.

It would be pleasant, and it would be useful, to talk of those wondrous works which proclaim the Eternal Power and Godhead; and which have called forth the reverence and love of the wise and good, in all parts of the world. By the things which our eyes behold, we have convincing evidence, that a Being of infinite perfection, presides over the universe and guides all the movements of it, according to his pleasure. But on the present occasion, we feel disposed to talk more particularly of the loving kindness and of the mercy, which God was pleased to show to the Fathers of our Country; of the protection grated to them and their children, in seasons of weakness and danger, and when they were exposed to the savages of the wilderness, and to other powerful enemies; – of the wars in which our country has been engaged; – of the late war, and of the peace which God hath now given to us. From a review of the wondrous works of mercy and goodness, “which were done in the times of old,” and which have been done in later years, we will endeavour to excite those grateful and pious feelings, which alone can render our public expressions of thanksgiving acceptable to a gracious Benefactor.

When we speak of the Fathers of our Country, we have respect to those Europeans, who early adventured to this quarter of the world, and made settlements in various parts of the extensive region now called The United States of America : but when we speak of the Fathers of New England, we have respect to those protestant Christians, who, having been oppressed and persecuted by a race of despotic sovereigns, and by an intolerant hierarchy, left “the places of their fathers sepulchers,” and made the first permanent settlements, in the region which we inhabit, and which still bears the name of the country from whence they emigrated.

The views of the early adventurers to North America, even from Columbus in 1492, to the time when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, in 1620, where extremely various. The object of some of them was, discovery. — Men best acquainted, in those times with the principles of geography, expected to find a passage to India, by the Western Ocean. Others were excited to the hazardous undertaking, and made voyages to this quarter of the world, with the expectation of wealth: reports were spread abroad, that on the islands and on the continent there was plenty of silver and gold. But it was for the express purpose of securing for themselves and for their children the rights of freemen, and more particularly the rights of conscience, that the Fathers of New England exchanged their dwelling places, in a country abounding with the means of subsistence, for a wilderness, where wants and sufferings were to be expected.

The first Christian pilgrims approached these northern shores at an inclement season of the year. At their landing they found no shelter from the cold and from the tempest. They were in want of those refreshments which would have been peculiarly grateful after the fatigues and dangers of a long voyage. By reason of the privations and the sufferings, which were unavoidable in their miserable habitations, they soon became sickly; and before the opening of the spring, forty-five of the one hundred and one, who landed on the last of the preceding December, were dead.

Although the first Christian pilgrims had been brought to this northern region, contrary to the contract which they had been careful to make before they left their native country, divine providence seems to have prepared a place for them, in which they might plant themselves without any immediate opposition. The Indians, who had before inhabited the ground on which they landed, and the wilderness bordering on them were nearly extinct. The had some time before been beaten in bloody wars with other savage nations; and, to complete their destruction, an awful pestilence had raged among them, sweeping away both the old and the young, until it might be said, “The land was left without inhabitants.” With great propriety we quote and apply a part of the XLIV. Psalm. — “We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them : how thou didst afflict the people and cast them out. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.”

The feeble pilgrims, at the first, had indeed no enemy to oppose them. None of the original lords of the soil came to protest against their landing. The first visit made them by an Indian, was in the month of March. One of the chiefs of a tribe, living a considerable distance, appeared, unexpectedly; and in their own language which he had imperfectly learned from Europeans, who had visited the country, he addressed them saying, “Welcome, Englishmen; Welcome, Englishmen!”1

The fathers of New England were not, however, permitted to continue many years unmolested. The tribes of Indians, who inhabited the vast wilderness, observing the increase of English settlements, and hearing of the arrival of new adventurers, indulged suspicions, that the strangers, who were not only spreading along on the sea shore, but were extending into the country, would, ere long, compel them to relinquish the possessions which their fathers had enjoyed, from time immemorial.

Jealousies and apprehensions, such as we have no mentioned, were greatly strengthened by the intercourse which the natives of the wilderness had afterwards with the French, whose settlements were progressing in Nova Scotia and in Canada. The most dangerous wars in which the fathers of New England were engaged, are traced to the sources which we have now mentioned. Philip, son and successor of Massasciet, the historian observes, “could not bear to see the English of New Plymouth, extending their settlements over the dominions of his ancestors; and although his father had, at one time or another conveyed to them all that they were possessed of, yet he had sense enough, to distinguish a free voluntary covenant, from one he made under a sort of duress; and he could never rest until he brought on the war, which ended in his destruction.” The same historian adds; “The eastern wars have been caused by the attachment of those Indians to the French, who have taken all opportunities of exciting them to hostilities against the English.”2

During the wars with Philip, and with various tribes of Indians, after the death of Philip, assisted by the French from Canada and Nova Scotia, the New England Colonies, more especially Massachusetts and New Hampshire, were exposed to great sufferings. Such was the influence which Phillip had over his own tribe, and over many other tribes of the savages that he was able to send the calamities of war to almost every town in New England. Many innocent people were killed while laboring in their fields; many women and children were killed in their houses; many were taken and carried away into captivity. Between the month of June 1675, when this noted warrior began his work of murder and depredation, and the month of August, 1676, when he fell in battle, many of the towns in this then colony, which are now beautiful and opulent, were visited by the savage invaders, and either in whole, or in part were destroyed. I will mention some of them. — Brookfield was among the first, seven days after was laid in ashes. Springfield, partly destroyed. Groton, wholly destroyed. Lancaster, and Medfield, and Warwick, and Sudbury, and Marlborough, and Chelmsford, and Weymouth, and Bridgewater, and Scituate, and Middleborough, and Plymouth, and several other towns, were attacked, and in most cases some of the inhabitants were killed, and some carried into captivity; and many of the buildings left in flames.

Nor did the work of devastation and murder end with the death of Phillip.3 Expeditions were made from Canada and from Nova Scotia. Saco, and Wells, and York, and Dover, and Berwick, and other places, were invaded by French and Indians from the east. Many people were killed, and many houses were destroyed. Several towns, which were destroyed in the time of Philip’s war were again visited and destroyed by parties of French from Canada, and the Indians who united with them. So late as 1704, Deerfield was again invaded and burnt; many of the people were killed, and their minister, Rev. Mr. Williams was carried into captivity. And four years after, Haverhill was attacked, and in part burnt; Rev. Mr. Rolfe the minister of the town, and thirty or forty of the people were killed.

During the long reign of Lewis XIV king of France, great exertions were made by that monarch to gain an ascendency over the powerful kingdoms of Europe, and, in the end, make all of the nations of the world bow to his authority. He found the English were making settlements on the atlantick coasts, and rapidly extending their borders into a country capable of high cultivation, and promising a lucrative commerce. He, too, had colonies in North America; but he had an impression, that his colonies would be of but little advantage to him, unless he could prevent the growth of the English colonies, but eventually, would have extirpated them. We find a plan for the purpose now mentioned, adopted by the court of France, as early as 1687.4

The French project to obtain, and to hold the dominion of all North America, was simple, while it was deep. It was to secure the great rivers at the north east, and at the south west, viz. the St. Lawrence, and the Mississippi, as well as the inland seas, which complete the line of water communication, and which give facility to an immense commerce. They very well knew, that the power, which shall be able to command on those waters, will be able to command and to direct the numerous tribes of savages who inhabit the vast wilderness between the English colonies and the French settlements. To carry this plan in to effect, we find the French exploring the waters of the Mississippi, in the year 1687. Some years after, we hear of them making settlements on the borders of that river. We hear of them erecting forts, at the most commanding places, near the lakes, and other navigable waters at the west; and at the same time, making unreasonable demands of territory at the east.5

Having thus prepared, the French lost no time in attempting to carry their plan into execution. They availed themselves of the jealousies which already existed in the minds of many of the native Indians, that the English would take from them their hunting grounds, and destroy them. In this state of jealousy and irritation, they were excited to deeds of savage cruelty. They not only invaded the frontier settlements, and penetrated the country, laying waste and destroying, as has been already related; but formidable fleets were sent to attack the whole extent of sea coast. In 1697, the historian informs us, “an invasion was every day expected for several weeks together; and news was brought to Boston, that a formidable French fleet had been seen upon the coast.”

The reality of a plan to destroy English colonies, and particularly New England, is stated by Charlevoix, in the account given him, of the above mentioned expedition. A powerful army from Canada, was to meet a fleet from France early in the season at Penobscot; and, “as soon as the junction was made, and the troops embarked, the fleet, without loss of time, was to go to Boston, and that town being taken, it was to range the coast, — destroying settlements as far into the country as they could.”6 — This projected expedition, had it been executed, might have been fatal to our country; but, by reason of contrary winds, the fleet did not arrive in season, and the plan was frustrated.

Another projected invasion is within the recollection of some of us. The elderly people have not yet forgotten their fears and apprehensions, when the strong force under the Duke D’Anville, was expected in this harbour; nor have they lost a remembrance of the joy they felt, when that fleet was scattered and many ships were destroyed by the winds and the waves.

Such of us, as are advanced in life, remember our fears during a course of years, while the French surrounded us, except on the Atlantic; and on that side also, they were threatening to invade us : — when our armies were defeated, which were sent to protect the frontiers; when the young Washington found it necessary to capitulate.7 Washington, who about fourteen months after, by skill and bravery, saved the broken remains of an army, late commanded by General Braddock; and who, by the providence of God, was preserved to be the Saviour of his Country.

But I will weary you no longer with the sad detail of wars, in which the Fathers of New England suffered from the French and the savages of the wilderness. In short, they had but little rest from the time of Philip’s war, until Quebec was taken by the immortal Wolfe, and the whole country was ceded to Great Britain in 1763.

Having talked as long perhaps as may be proper, of the mercy which God was pleased to show to the Fathers of our Country; and of the protection granted to them and to their children in seasons of weakness and danger, and when exposed to the savages of the wilderness, and to other powerful enemies; we are prepared to talk of like protection and favours granted to the American people in later times : — of their dangers and sufferings during a severe conflict for the security of their most important interests; a conflict which terminated in the establishment of a new state of things in this quarter of the world, — a new empire, which, in process of time will probably be equal in extent, in power, and in wealth, to any nation in the world. But should we talk of the revolutionary war, — of the causes which produced it, — of its progress and important events; and of the honourable terms of peace, obtained by the plenipotentiaries of the United States at Paris in 1783, our discourse would not only be unreasonably long, but we should have no time left, to talk of the late war, in which our country has been engaged, — of the peace which is again restored to us; and to indulge in pleasing anticipation, the comforts and blessings which, not only the American people, but, we hope, the world may enjoy, in a state of tranquility.

As the events of that war which procured the independence and the sovereignty of the United States of America are within the recollection of such of you have passed a little over the middle of life; and the history of it is in almost every family, I shall omit any farther conversation with respect to it, and go on to talk of the late war, and of the peace, which we on this day celebrate.

It would certainly be attended with very little pleasure and probably with very little profit now that the war is ended, to talk much about the reason assigned for it when it was proclaimed, or of the important objects which were to be secured by it. We remember the many unpleasant feelings occasioned by the contentions of men of different opinions, concerning the origin, and the manner in which the late war was conducted. We hope such uncomfortable feelings may now wholly subside, and that no restless people among us, may hereafter, by rash speeches, or inflammatory publications, again revive them. Although we have not yet learned that the objects for which the late war was declared, have been obtained or secured, we rejoice that the conflict is at an end. We do sincerely rejoice at the return of peace. We will therefore talk of the wondrous goodness of God, both in conducting the American people through the war, and in giving the rulers of the late contending nations pacifick dispositions.

Should the peace continue, which is now established among the Christian nations of the earth, opportunities will offer for the execution of the most benevolent purposes of the human heart. A state of peace is favourable to the propagation of the gospel, — to the advancement of science and all the useful arts, — to commerce, — to every thing which gives true dignity to man, and tends to qualify him for the rank which he is designed to hold in creation.

Divine Providence seems to have been preparing the way for the spread of truth, and the farther establishment of the kingdom of Christ. That Being who superintends the changes and revolutions which take place among the nations of the world, will always bring good out of apparent evil; and therefore while we mourn over the late sufferings of a great portion of our fellow men on the continent of Europe, we find consolation in the belief, that good will result from those sufferings.

In the dark ages of ignorance and superstition, when the religion of Jesus was awfully corrupted, and civil liberty was poorly understood, combinations were formed by the rulers of the church, and by the princes of this world, to support each other in the most shameful acts of tyranny and oppression. Although much had been done at the time of the reformation, and at succeeding periods, to lessen the power, which kings and priests had usurped over the worldly estates, and over the spiritual concerns of the people, much remained to be done. Bigotry and superstition may still bluster and threaten, but they can no longer hold the minds of a great part of mankind in bondage; they can no longer prevent free inquiry such is the power of truth, that it will prevail. “Many shall run to and fro; and knowledge shall increase.”

At no period since the great opposition to popery by Luther, and the reformers who followed after him, have Christians of all denominations been so well united, as they are at the present time in laudable endeavours to extent the knowledge of salvation. Within a few years, societies have been formed in England and in various parts of Europe, consisting of members of great respectability having for their object “the distribution of the Bible.” Societies for the same purpose have been recently formed in the principal cities and towns in North America. The wonderful union of Christians of all denominations, and of all orders of people, from the highest to the lowest, in this noble work of charity, affords the highest encouragement to the friends of Zion, and is, we trust, a presage of that happy condition of the world, which we are taught to expect, when “All shall know the Lord.”

As the most benevolent purposes of God are brought to pass, by means adapted to the ends which are to be accomplished, wise observers may perceive a fitness in the means, and in working of providence, to accomplish such purposes. If there is to be a time, when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,” we shall have reason to think, God is preparing the way for a condition so desirable, when kings and mighty men, — when high and low, — when Christians of every creed, and of every mode of worship, unite their labours and good wishes to extend the only effectual means of religious knowledge to all countries, and to all regions.

There are other circumstances in the present state of the civilized nations of the earth, favourable to the propagation of truth, which have not heretofore existed to the extent in which they now exist. Civil liberty, and the rights of conscience, are better understood, and will no doubt, be more respected, than heretofore. Well informed Christians have more moderation, more candor, more charity for one another, although still differing in opinions, and in modes of worship, than have been exercised at any former period, since the church and the world were united, for the support of each other.

Under circumstances such as we have now mentioned, and on which we might enlarge with great pleasure would the time admit, under such circumstances, aided by peace, and by the intercourse now opened, and more widely opening among the different nations of the world, we indulge a pleasing hope, that the gospel shall be carried to every part of the globe; that the light of the sun; and “people of all kindreds and tongues, and nations, shall walk in the light.”

The peace which we this day celebrate has opened the American ports, not only to the nation with which we have been at war, but to a great part of the nations of the world. The commerce of our country, which had been languishing until there was scarcely an appearance of life, hath sprung up at the voice of peace, and is beginning to assume its wonted cheerful appearance. We again hear the noise of the axe and the hammer. “Zebulon is beginning to rejoice in his going out, and Issachar in his tents.”

Peace is highly favourable to science, to the useful arts, to agriculture, and to all the social connexions of life. In a time of war the mind is disturbed; the thoughts are divided; it is impossible to give that application to study, which is necessary to the acquirement of extensive knowledge.

In a time of war, multitudes are called from their usual occupations, and from domestic enjoyments, exposed to privations, to dangers, and to death. Ware is an evil; a judgment which God inflicts on the sinful nations of the earth. During the late war, our nation has suffered a variety of evils. Many lives have been lost. Vast property has been taken and carried away, or destroyed on the seas : vast sums have been expended, and vast debt hath been contracted. Towns have been invaded, — villages have been burnt, — the capitol has been laid in ashes. We are glad to set down in peace, under circumstances, no doubt, less eligible, than the friends and supporters of the war expected. We have reason to be thankful that our sufferings have not been greater : — that the conflict was no longer continued.

Truly we may say, “If it had not been that the Lord was on our side,” when a powerful enemy invaded our coasts, — “if it had not been that the Lord was on our side,” when men of renown, of uncommon strength and skilled in war, and men accustomed to conquer by sea and by land, — “if it had not been that the Lord was on our side,” when such men with powerful fleets and powerful armies came against us, — “then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us! Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul. Then the proud waters had gone over our soul. Blessed be the Lord who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broke and we are escaped.”

In a review of the wondrous works of God, as they relate to the fathers of our country, and to their children, and their children’s children, to the fifth and the sixth generation, we see many things which call for our gratitude, and many things which call for sober reflection and humiliation. Towards the American people, while they were under the government of Great Britain, and since they have been free and independent states, the dispensations of Providence have been merciful, and they have been afflictive. As the children of Israel were marvelously protected when they went out of the land of Egypt, but were afterwards corrected for their faults, and grievously afflicted; so were our fathers protected; but the first generation had not passed away, before the heathen brake in upon them, and they were afflicted.

The history of our country, is a history of its prosperities, and of its adversities; fo its happiness in times of peace, and of its sufferings in seasons of war.

On this day, we are invited by the supreme Magistrate of the United States, to assemble in our place of worship, and to unite our hearts and our voices, “in a free will offering,” of thanksgiving and praise to our Heavenly Benefactor for his great goodness manifested in restoring to us “the blessings of peace.” “No people,” the president observes in his proclamation, “No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of all events, and of the destiny of nations, than the people of the United States. His kind Providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allowed for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them, under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under his fostering care, their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits, prepared them for a transition, in due time, to a state of independence and self-government. In the arduous struggle by which it was attained they were distinguished by multiplied tokens of his benign interposition. And to the same Divine Author of every good and perfect gift, we are indebted for all the privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favoured land.”

While making our offering of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, for the peace which he hath been pleased to ordain for us, many circumstances occur to our minds, which render the event which we now celebrate, peculiarly grateful, and which call for the exercise of our best affections.

Had the war continued another season, it would have become more fierce and cruel. A disposition to plunder, and retaliate injuries, on both sides, had been for some time increasing, and we have reason to fear, that a continuance of the war would not only have afforded opportunities, but excitements to still more shocking deeds’ in which, not only men in arms, but un offending citizens in the peaceful walks of life, would have been subjected to inexpressible sufferings.

Had the war continued another season, the forces of the enemy in the Canada’s, on the lakes, and on our sea coasts, would have been greatly increased: much greater exertions therefore would have been required on the part of the United States. What ways and means should have been devised for the support of such armies as must have been called out to defend an extensive sea coast, and an equally extensive frontier, those public men may, perhaps be able to say, who had the management of the finances during the two last seasons.

Had the war continued, multitudes must have been called from the fields of husbandry, from manufacturing establishments, and other useful and necessary employments, and hurried away to exposed parts of the country, to suffer in camps and to die in battle.

Had the war continued, the spring would have opened upon us with gloomy forebodings. In the winter season, the ice and the snow were our best defense. With the returning sun, our fears would have increased our apprehensions. But with the peace, which God in mercy hath granted us, the whole scene of things is changed. We hail each lengthening day with the smile of cheerfulness. We behold the vernal skies, and we receive the vernal showers, with unmingled pleasure. “We will now give thanks unto the Lord; we will call upon his name; we will make known his deeds among the people; we will sing unto him; we will sing psalms unto him; we will talk of all his wondrous works.”

That our offering of thanksgiving and praise, may be acceptable to God, let it be accompanied with kind affection towards all our fellow citizens, and towards the people whom we lately considered as our enemies.

“Whatever differences of opinion may have existed,” with respect to the origin of the late war, or any of the measures in which it hath been conducted, all now rejoice, in that the conflict is at an end. “All good citizens will unite in providing still farther for our external security, as well as internal prosperity and happiness, by fidelity to the union, by reverence for the laws, by discountenancing all local and other prejudices, and by promoting everywhere the concord and brotherly affection becoming members of one great political family.”8

As we are again at peace with the government and people of Great Britain, let us suppress, as much as possible, the feelings of resentment which are apt to rise from a recollection of sufferings and injuries,. The brave are always generous: they are the first to forgive and forget. If we have suffered, our enemy too has suffered. Let the balm of peace now heal every wound. If the scar remain, lest us be careful, lest by fretting, the blood be made again to appear.

As the brave are always generous, the brave will never exult, when a powerful enemy has been beaten. We are to remember, the race is not always swift, nor is the battle always to the strong. While the American arms have, without question, secured immortal fame, it must be confessed that little else has been secured, for the United States, by a vast expense in blood and treasure.9

It is now devoutly to be wished, that all ill will, and all party spirit may be put away. Why should party spirit and party feelings continue, when, it is presumed, there can now be no foreign influence to support a party? Whatever there may have been in times past, at present there can be no particular attachments to foreign nations, to influence American citizens. If any internal contentions be kept alive, they must be such as are found to a certain degree, in all elective governments : a contention for power, for places, — for “the loaves and fishes.” A man surely can have very little modesty, who seeks for honours and preferments which the public is not willing to give him. In an uncorrupted state of society, men will not be seen making interest for places of honour and profit. Men well known to be qualified men of approved integrity and uprightness, will be sought for, and solicited, to accept offices of high responsibility. God grant that we may live to see a return of something like that golden age of purity and simplicity, which our country once enjoyed!

My beloved people, although I have now talked with you a long time, I feel unwilling to close my discourse, without offering my very particular and most affectionate congratulations on the present joyous occasion. On a like occasion I once addressed some of you. The peace of 1783, after a sever contest for independence and sovereignty, was a glorious peace. It is to the highest degree improbable, that I shall again, at any future time, address you on a similar occasion: or on any political subject. Four seasons of distressing warfare are within my recollection. The war of 1745, the war of 1755, the war of 1775, and the late war declared on the part of the United States June 18, 1812. I have seen important changes and revolutions in my own country, and among the nations of the world I have seen one generation pass away, and another generation come forward. I have seen a nation rise up in this quarter of the world, powerful in men and in arms, and taking rank among the other nations of the earth. Such changes I have seen; but my days of vision on earth are drawing to an end. My country, now at peace, I hope will continue in peace long. Very long, after it shall please God to take me to that “better country,” where wars are unknown.

My heart’s desire and prayer has been for the prosperity and peace of our Jerusalem. May those always prosper who seek her peace!

It was for the love which I had for my country; — the country in which I was born —in which my friends live — in which the people live with whom I am connected by ties which have made, and which still make my abode pleasant to me; for the love which I had, and which I still have for this country, I have discoursed to you several times on its rights and its liberties — on its dangers and its sufferings. I have rejoiced with my country when in prosperity; and mourned when in adversity. As the Comforts which we enjoy in the peace and prosperity of our country, are as truly the gifts of God, as the comforts which we hope to enjoy a future life, we should be unjust to ourselves, and ungrateful to our heavenly Benefactor, did we not endeavour to defend and secure them, when men of violence attempt to take them away from us: I therefore thought, and still think, it was my duty to give warning when the important interests of my country appeared to be in danger. When those important interests were actually invaded, I thought, and still think, it was my duty to say and to do what I was able, to support them. In this I thought, and still think, I had great and good examples, in the prophets and apostles. Jesus Christ also, with the perfect feelings of a perfect man, loved his country, and wept over its capital, when he knew its destruction was approaching. In my youth I was taught to regard civil and religious liberty, with a kind of reverential respect. That sort of devotion I strengthened afterwards, by reading and meditation; nor do I perceive that my attachment to those objects of my early affection, has in any measure abated now I am old.

For the full enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, together with the inestimable blessings connected with them, the fathers of New England exchanged the wealth and the accommodations of their native country, for the poverty and the sufferings of a wilderness. I pray God, the offspring of those excellent men, may never suffer their birth-rights to be taken from them.

I rejoice that my country is again at peace with the government and people of Great Britain; a people of high spirits and somewhat vindictive; but a people possessing many strong virtues. A people, who, with all their faults, have done more to encourage useful institution and to send the true knowledge of salvation to the dark parts of the earth than any other nation, and I may say, than all the other nations in the world. It would be unjust, and base, and wicked, to impute to the present inhabitants of Great Britain, the bigotry and the persecuting spirit of their great grandfathers.

I rejoice that the world is again at peace. The temple of Janus is again shut. The earth is at rest. God grant that henceforth the only contest may be, who shall do most to enlighten the ignorant; who shall do most to reform the guilty; and to use the words of the great Washington, the beloved father of our country, with whose words I conclude, — who shall do most “to make our neighbours and fellow men as happy, as their frail conditions and perishing natures will permit them to be.”10


Note A. Some persons who heard the discourse expressed their surprise that this Indian warrior should be known by an English name. We have an explanation in Hutchinson’s History of Massachusetts. Vol. 1st. p276.After the Indians became acquainted with the Europeans who had settled among them, “they were fond of having names given to them.” In 1662 when Massasoiet’s two sons were at Plymouth the governor gave them their English names.” To Wamsutta the eldest son of Massasoiet, governor Prince gave the English name Alexander: to the second son, whose Indian name was Metacom, the governor gave the English name, Philip.

In Neal’s History of New England, Philip is said to be “grandson of old Massasoiet.” “He was a bold and daring prince, having all the pride, fierceness, and cruelty of a savage.” Neal’s Hist. Vol. II. p. 23. The wonderful destruction of the Indians by wars and sickness, before the arrival of the fathers of New England, is related by Mr. Gookin. See Historical Collections, Vol 1st, p. 148. Morton’s New England’s Memorial. P 37, 38. Prince’s Chronology, p.69.

Note B. The quotation to which this note has relation is made from the president’s excellent Answer to the “Tribute of Respect,” or “Congratulatory Address of the Republican member of both branches of the Legislature of Massachusetts, and other citizens.” Which “was voted to be communicated to the President, on the restoration of peace.” Feb. 23, 1815.

Note C. Hon. William Gaston, member of congress from North Carolina, in his circular letter dated at Washington, March 1, 1815, writes thus : “Some time must yet elapse before we ascertain with certainty the addition the war has made to our publick debt. Claims are even now brought before congress which had their origin in the war of the revolution; and this which has just past, short as was its continuance has given rise to many more than our revolutionary struggle.”
Hon. Cyrus King, member of congress from Massachusetts, in a speech delivered Feb. 27, 1815, states the loss of men, “brave Americans,” 30,000. And the amount of treasures sacrificed, “150,000,000.”

Note D. As the words of Washington are words of wisdom, the reader will be gratified by having a few more from the letter quoted at the end of the discourse.

—“I observe with singular satisfaction, the cases in which your benevolent institution,” (the Massachusetts Humane Society,) “has been instrumental in recalling some of our fellow creatures, as it were, from beyond the gates of eternity, and has given occasion for the hearts of parents and friends to leap for joy. The provisions made for shipwrecked mariners is also highly estimable in the view of every philanthropic mind, and greatly consolatory to that suffering part of the community. These things will draw upon you the blessings of those who were ready to perish. These works of charity and goodwill towards men, reflect, in my estimation, great lustre upon the authors, and presage an era of still farther improvements. How pitiful, in the eye of reason and religion, is that false ambition which desolates the world with fire and sword for the purposes of conquest and fame; when compared to the milder virtues of making our neighbours and our fellow men, as happy, as their frail conditions and perishable natures permit them to be!”

Now the writer of the above almost divine sentences is no more among the living, may we exclaim, “How pitiful in the eye of reason and religion” are the heroes of antiquity, — the Alexanders and the Caesars, the Pompies, the Charleses, the Edwards, the Henries, and all who have “desolated the world with fire and sword for the purposes of conquest and fame, when compared” with Washington, who fought only for the liberties and the safety of his country’ and having accomplished the great objects for which he drew his sword, returned to private life!


1 Holmes’s Annals, I:207.
Samoset, it may be supposed, obtained some knowledge of the English language from Capt. John Smith and others, who visited this country and began a commerce with the Indians in the years 1614 and 1615.
2 Hutchinson’s Hist. I:176 and 283.
3 See Note A.
4 Holmes’s Annals I:472.
5 As far as the river Kennebeck. Hutchinson’s History of Massachusetts, II:111.
6 Hutchinson’s Hist. V:ii:102.
7 Holmes’s Annuals, V:ii:199.
8 See Note B.
9 See Note C.
10 A letter, dated at Mount Vernon June 22, 1788. See Note D.

Sermon – House of Representatives – 1854

This sermon was preached by James H. Thornwell in the House of Representatives chamber in 1854.


Judgements, A Call to Repentance





SATURDAY, DEC. 9, 1854


THOUGH a minister of God should, on all occasions, magnify his office, and not be afraid of the faces of men, whether kings, princes, or people, yet, while cherishing the profound conviction that the protection of the Almighty is a defenced city, and an iron pillar and brazen walls against the whole land, I confess that a feeling of deep solicitude oppresses me in undertaking this service to-day. These are no ordinary circumstances under which we are convened—this no ordi­nary congregation which I am called to address. The august image of the Commonwealth rises before me. By her trusted agents and chosen representatives, South Caro­lina, in her organic capacity—as a distinct political com­munity; in the person of our honoured Chief Magistrate, in the two Houses of the Legislature and the venerable Judges of the land—presents herself, in humility and mourning, before the footstool of Him who standeth in the congregation of the mighty and judgeth among the gods. A Sovereign State prostrate before a Sovereign God. This is the spectacle which we behold to-day. And is it strange that 1 should tremble in being called to declare the word of the Lord to such an audience? I do tremble—not for myself; not for my own name, or character, or fame; God forbid that such unworthy considerations should enter here. My only appre­hension is that I may give a wrong touch to the ark of God; that I may fail to speak those words in season, which, taking advantage of the interest naturally awakened by the scene, may contribute to guide the confused emotions, and vague and indefinite impressions it suggests, into the channels of salutary thought. It is a great occasion, and I am deeply sensible that nothing but Divine wisdom can fit me to discharge the duty it imposes. The guidance of that wisdom I humbly and fervently implore; and your prayers, I trust, will be joined with mine, that these rare and imposing solemnities may not pass away like an empty pageant, the mockery of a pompous hypocrisy. It is at all times solemn to appear before God; it is almost awful to do so with pro­testations of extraordinary penitence—professions of extra-ordinary reverence. Above all things, He requireth truth in the inward parts; and if we would not insult him to-day, and forfeit all the blessings which we hope to gain, let us see to it that our hearts are in unison with the language and worship of our lips.

There is a circumstance, trifling in itself—a coincidence perhaps not worthy of notice, which yet may be mentioned, as by that mysterious sympathy on which our emotions so much depend, it has inspired me with something of confi­dence and hope, and thrown an additional interest around the services of the day. When I received the notice of this appointment, and reflected that its fulfillment was to take place upon the anniversary of. the day on which I first be­held the light of the sun, I could not but regard it as an omen of good. It seemed a sign that God had called me to this work. There is certainly no enterprise in which I could embark with a less divided heart, than that of presenting the Commonwealth, which I love next to God himself and His own Divine cause, an offering upon His altar. Every­thing which indicates a growing regard for the kingdom of Jesus Christ on the part of this State I hail with joy, as I am assured that God will never leave nor forsake the people that are steadfast in His covenant; and if there were but one prayer that I were at liberty to offer for the land of my birth, for the home of my children, for the resting-place of my fathers, that prayer would be that her people might be all righteous, fearing the Lord. That would include everything. With God for us, it would matter little who or what was against us. That I may contribute some small degree to this blessed consummation, I have selected for the occa­sion the words contained in the 26th chapter of Isaiah, 9th verse:

“For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”

The judgments to which the prophet refers are those visitations of Providence which are evidently expressive of the Divine displeasure, and because they are universally regarded as the penal inflictions of a Judge or Ruler, they have received the appellation of the text. The conviction is a part of our nature, and no sophistry can eradicate it, that the sufferings to which sentient beings are exposed are either directly or remotely the consequences of sin. It is not so much any abstract views of the Divine benevolence or refined deductions from the phenomena of the case, as the spontaneous suggestion of conscience; the immediate promptings of our sense of good and ill desert, which impel us to recognize, in rude traces, at least, even in the present life, a moral dispensation in which death is the wages of sin. We cannot, without atheism, deny, that, as the connection be­tween the finite and the infinite is that of personal will, all the events which constitute the course of nature or the his­tory of the world are the appointments of God. There are no powers, whether physical or otherwise, but those which~ are ordained of Him. Secondary causes or general laws are only expressions for that uniformity and order which He originally established and constantly maintains. Motion, action, change, are all from Him. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His will. When, therefore, adversity overtakes us, our troubles do not spring from the dust, nor our afflictions from chance. Is there evil in the city, and bath not the Lord done it? God being a person like ourselves, we judge of the purpose or design of Divine dispensa­tions from the obvious tendency. We reason from the analogy of our own natures, and transfer to Him something like the motives which would influence us in visiting those who are subject to our jurisdiction with similar distresses. We tremble at His anger, and dread His justice. Conscience reminds us that we are guilty, and consequently worthy of death; and hence those representations of afflictive providences, which resolve them into God’s displeasure on account of sin, are the very voice of nature. They cannot be set aside without setting aside the belief in Providence, or setting aside design and purpose as characteristic of a personal God. We feel these judgments to be just, and we see that they have a natural tendency to stigmatize transgression and to preserve the innocent, by a salutary fear, in their integrity.

So strong is the impression of the moral connection between suffering guilt, that unreflecting minds are apt to make the degree of suffering the exponent of the measure of guilt. They look upon extraordinary judgments as proofs of extraordinary sins. It was this feeling which our Saviour designed to rebuke when he was told of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices; Think ye, said he, that these were sinners above all the other Galileans? I tell you nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them; think ye that they were sinners above all the men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

The doctrine is this: That sin is the cause of all suffering and pain. None would ever be visited with any species of calamity unless they were guilty. But, as the present state is only moral government begun and not completed, and as other ends among the guilty may be answered by affliction as well as those of punishment, we can never infer the degree of guilt from the degree of suffering though the general fact may be universally concluded. Is a people visited with pesti­lence, famine, or war? We may infer with absolute cer­tainty that there is sin among them. These scourges could, under no circumstances, be inflicted upon the innocent. Not a tear can fall, nor a sigh be heaved where sin has not entered. But we cannot infer that they are more guilty than their neighbors. It may be, on the contrary, that they are less offensive to God, and that these judgments are designed to awaken them to a general sense of sin, and to bring them to repentance. God has purposes of mercy towards them and makes bare His arm that wrath may be subservient to love. All that we can conclude with absolute certainty is the necessity of repentance. Judgments are a call, a loud and solemn call, to the inhabitants of the world to learn righteousness, and are addressed to others as well as the victims themselves. Except ye, the spectators of those woes, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. The great lesson, and it is a lesson to all alike, is that there is sin and that God hates it, but how much sin there is, and how aggravated, it is presumption to conclude.

The Legislature of this State, therefore, has wisely attributed those severe dispensations which have wrapped so many families in mourning, and carried desolation to so many hearths, to the penal visitation of God. Though the product of natural causes and secondary agents, they ultimately proceed from Him, and proceed from Him distinctly as a moral Ruler, a just and righteous Judge. The benevo­lent design may be inferred from the effect already produced. We are beginning, I trust, to learn the righteousness, to practice the repentance which He exacts at our hands.

The first step has been taken—we have heard God’s voice—we have trembled at the rebukes of His providence, and we have publicly confessed that our mourning and woe are the sad desert of our sins. It is a source of heartfelt satisfaction that the State has not been stupid nor insensible— that she has not shut her eyes to the prime cause of these dispensations—that she has seen and kissed the rod in the hands of the Almighty. She has bowed before that sove­reign Ruler whose favor is life, whose frown is death—she has resorted to no carnal expedients, to no mere prudential policy~ as the means of averting future calamities—she has not consulted diviners or physicians—she has gone directly to Him whose prerogative it is to kill and to make alive—she has spread her cause before His throne, and in humility and penitence has implored Him to put up the sword into its scabbard, to let it rest and be still.

The next step is a genuine repentance—a hearty confession and a sincere renunciation of the sins which have pro­voked the displeasure of God. The reason of these calami­ties must be removed—the cause must cease to operate, if we expect the effects to terminate. As the judgments themselves do not specify the sins, and as our Saviour has taught us that it is sin in general, as much as any special sins in particular, that provoke peculiar calamities, the only safe course for us is to go into the depths of our hearts, and bring out and destroy all the forms of iniquity that lurk there. We should spare none. Every man, and, every family, should mourn apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. Repentance must be­gin in every man’s own soul, and the first care which the solemnities of this day imposes upon every one of you, is to see to it, that his own heart is right with God. Nothing will or can be done effectually, unless it is done in the spirit of personal and individual repentance. Your sins may have contributed to provoke these judgments of the Almighty. You are a citizen of the commonwealth—a member of her legislative councils. Are you, or are you not, an enemy to God by wicked works? Have you kissed the Son—have you been redeemed by the blood of the cross? Depend upon it, that the personal character of those who are placed in authority, have much to do, from the very nature of moral government, with the prosperity of the State. The rulers are the representatives of the land, and in God’s word no more tremendous judgment is threatened against any people than the sending among them of ignorant, debauched and wicked counsellors. Manasseh’s sins drenched Jerusalem in blood, and Ahab’s idolatry made the heavens as brass and the earth as iron. No man can say to what extent his own personal transgressions enter as an ingredient into that cup of trembling which God administers to guilty nations. The best servant of the State, is the faithful servant of God; and you would do more to-day, my brethren, for the prosperity and glory of this great Commonwealth which we love, by consecrating each man himself upon the altar of religion, than by all your eloquence, prudence and skill. Verily, there is a God that judgeth in the earth, and He does visit a people for the sins and iniquities of their rulers. Virtue is power, and vice is weakness, and every corrupt Senator, every debauched councellor, every wicked man, is like a. crumbling stone in the foundation of an edifice. They weaken infallibly—they mazy destroy. In your official rela­tion to the State, therefore, it is a matter of the last impor­tance that you should all be friends of God. Imagination can hardly conceive the strength and beauty and glory of that Commonwealth in which the people should all be righteous—in which no rivalry should be found but the rivalry of excellence—no selfishness, ambition or partizan zeal—no dema­gogues nor placemen. Butler’s imagination was even roused to something like fervour and eloquence when he undertook to depict the effects of the universal prevalence of virtue among any people or in any kingdom; and inspiration itself never rises to higher, or breathers in sweeter strains, than when it dwells upon the consequences of the universal diffusion of holiness; and what is especially to be observed, these effects are attributed to the character and influence of the Ruler. It is when righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins, that the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them; and the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and the sucking child shall play on the hold of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. There is a natural and necessary tendency in holiness to bring about this delightful state of things—a corresponding tendency in sin to prevent it. Society is the moral union of moral agents, and the strength of their union is the perfection of the moral ties which connect them. All sin is, therefore, essentially weakness and misery—all virtue essentially power and happiness. To make a great people, you must make a pure people, and every man must begin with himself. To the extent of his depravity, he is an element of weakness in the State; and if all were corrupt and reprobate, there would be speedy anarchy and dissolution. Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

Bowed as you are before God this day, my brethren, and charged with solemn duties to the Commonwealth, let me beseech you to seek that fitness for your task which can be found only in the favour and friendship of Heaven. See to it that your sins do not interpose a veil between God and the land. You stand in high places; make them as pure and holy as they are high, and you will find that God has never said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye my face in vain. Sow to yourselves in righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you. His repentings will be kindled together, He will not execute the fierceness of His anger.

But next to this inquiry into our own State, the judgments of God should direct our attention to those forms of iniquity which most extensively prevail in the land. And, although, we cannot say with absolute confidence that these are the specific offences for which the sword has been drawn from the scabbard, it is enough to know that they are sins, and. sins which will inevitably be punished, unless a timely repen­tance intervene. When God’s judgments are abroad in the land, they put us upon general inquiry. They proclaim the fact of sin, and that sin we are to search -out and expel wherever we find it, whether in our own hearts, or in the customs and usages of the people.

We should ask, then, to-day, whether there are any sins that pre-eminently attach to the people of our State; or if not peculiar to us, which have a wide-spread and controlling influence.
That there are any which are peculiar to us, I am not pre­pared to say; but the people of this Confederacy are certainly distinguished, to an extent unknown in other countries, ex­cept, perhaps, Great Britain, by profaneness and intemperance. These deserve to be called national sins. A stranger might infer from the tone of popular conversation; from the ex­clamations of excited individuals; from the clamors of-anger and passion, that we acknowledge the Almighty for no other purpose than that we might have a name to swear by, or a convenient expletive to fill up the chasms of discourse. Pro­faneness, that I may repeat what I have elsewhere said, is a slim, the enormity of which the imagination cannot conceive; because no thought can compass the infinite excellencies of Him, whose prerogative it is to be, who sits upon the circle of the earth, amid the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers, who stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in. That a punny creature of the dust, born today and gone to-morrow, should have the audacity to pur contempt upon that glorious name which Seraphs adore with rapture, is enough to astonish the heavens and convulse the earth. Yea, still more astonishing is that miracle of patience which endures the monsters, when one word would arm all nature against them; make the ground treacherous beneath them, heaven terrible above them; and hell ready to meet them at their coming. The magnitude of sin cannot be exaggerated. It is enough to make the blood curdle to think of the name of God bandied about as the bauble and plaything of fools, to point a jest, to season obscenity, and to garnish a tale.

This offence cannot go unpunished. If there be a God, He must vindicate His own majesty and glory. There must be a period when all shall tremble before Him, when every knee shall bow and every heart shall do reverence. The sword of justice cannot always be sheathed, nor the arm of vengeance slumber, and who shall say that the pestilence which has been walking amongst us, and slaying its thousands upon the right hand and the left, has not received its commission on account of the abounding profaneness of the land? Who shall deny that the deep has been evoked in storm and deluge to proclaim the name of the Lord as terrible and glorious? In the sight of angels there can be no greater sin than that of profaneness. They know something of what God is. They fear that dreadful name, and their imaginations, lofty and expanded as they are, cannot measure the height and depth of that iniquity which can make light of so tremendous a being. It is the very spirit and core of all evil—the quintessence of ungodliness.

In its influence upon society, hardly less disastrous are the ravages of intemperance; and what makes the case so alarm­ing, the moral sensibilities of the people are hardly alive to the real character of drunkenness as at once a sin and crime. The associations which are thrown around it, and the cir­cumstances under which the thoughtless and unsuspecting are betrayed into it, conceal its real features, and screen it from that moral indignation which, when seen in its true light, every unsophisticated heart must visit upon it. In one aspect, the predominance of the animal over the rational, it is a conspiracy against the law of a refined civilization. This feature of it Aristotle long ago pointed out, and in this aspect, it is confessedly the parent of vulgarity and coarse­ness, and presents the strongest obstacle to the moral eleva­tion of the people which society has to encounter. Refine­ment proceeds upon a principle which drunkenness directly contradicts, and, as it is the end of civilization to develope and carry out this principle, the drunkard stands in the way, a monument of degradation and of barbarism.

In another aspect, it is a crime whose name is legion. It is a sin, as an ancient Bishop has beautifully observed, against the whole man and the whole law, against both tables of the one and both parts of the other~ It prostrates the body, palsies its muscles, and exhausts its energies. It invades the soul, and undertakes to suppress those very principles of reason and conscience on which the dignity and excellence of man depend. It is an effort to extirpate our moral and rational nature, to root out the very elements of responsi­bility, and to make man worse than the tiger or the bear. They were made to obey their impulses; we to follow rea­son and law; and when we have expunged reason and law, we have reversed our natures, and left it a prey to impulses wilder and fiercer than any which rule the beasts that perish. When I look at the subject in this light; when I see that what drunkenness does is really to extinguish for the moment those very properties of our being which link us with the angels and with God, I am utterly astonished at that ob­tuseness of moral sentiment which hesitates to brand it as a crime of the deepest dye. The drunkard is not the object of peculiar sympathy or compassion. He is as truly crimi­nal, though it may be not in the same degree, as the robber or the assassin. And this sin never will be put down until it is placed ~n the footing of other crimes, and visited accor­ding to the demands of justice. These truths may seem harsh, but they challenge scrutiny, and on a. day like this, we should forego all prejudices and customary modes of thought, and endeavor to look upon this crying evil in the light in which God regards it. Let us not extenuate or, excuse. Let us confess our own. sins and the gins of our people, and humbly implore that this prolific fountain of disease, suffering, and death may be closed. Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effemi­nate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. The man who loves an appetite more than the improvement of his spiritual nature, who, for the sake of what is not so excellent as a mess of pottage, will sell the birthright of his moral dignity, does he not deserve to die? Is he not essentially low, and would not the thought be monstrous that such a spirit should be found among the children of light? I speak as unto wise men: judge ye what I say.

The sins which have been mentioned, amid which confess­edly prevail to a melancholy extent through the length and breadth of the land, though they call for humiliation and repentance here, are, perhaps, not so appropriate to this occasion, as those which spring from the tendencies and workings of our forms and principles of government. Bear with me in briefly stating what seems to me to be a species of idolatry which cannot fail to bring down upon us, sooner or later, the righteous judgments of God. I allude to what may be called the deification of the people. They are fre­quently represented as the source of all political power and rights; the very fountain head of sovereignty. It is their will which makes law; it is their will which unmakes it. A supremacy is ascribed to that will which he who reads the Bible and recognizes a God that has dominion over the children of men, must feel to be shocking. They are realIy treated as a species of Deity upon the earth. Now this whole representation is not only. inconsistent with religion, it is equally inconsistent with the philosophy upon which our popular institutions are founded. The government of this country does not proceed upon the maxim that the will of the people is the will of God, and its arrangements have not been made with a reference to the end, that their will may be simply ascertained. This legislature is not a con­gregation of deputies, or ministerial agents, and you have, and know that you have, higher functions to perform than merely to inquire what do the people think. I do not under­rate their opinions; they must always enter as an element in sober and wise deliberation; but what I maintain is, that the true and legitimate end of government is not to accom­plish their will, but to do and enforce what reason, conscience, and truth pronounce to be right. To the eternal law of right reason, which is the law of God, all are equally subject, and forms of government are only devices and expedients to reach the dictates of that law and apply it to the countless exigencies of social and individual life. The State is a Di­vine ordinance, a social institute, founded on the principle of justice, and it has great moral purposes to subserve, in rela­tion to which the constitution of its government may be pronounced good or bad. The will of the people should be done only when the people will what is right, and then pri­marily not because they will it, but because it is right. Great deference should be paid to their opinions, because general consent is a presumption of reason and truth.

The peculiarity of a representative system is that it gov­erns through deliberative assemblies. Their excellence is in the circumstance that they are deliberative, which affords a reasonable security that truth and justice may prevail. So far from bring mere exponents of public sentiment, their highest merit is that they are a check upon popular power— a barrier reared against the tide of passion, to beat back its waves, until reason can be fairly heard. There is no mis­apprehension more dangerous than that which confounds representative government with the essential principle of a pure democracy. It is not a contrivance to adapt the exer­cise of supreme power on the part of the people to extensive territory or abundant population, to meet the physical im­pediments which in large States, must obviously exist to the collection of their citizens in one vast assembly. It is not because the people cannot meet, but because they ought not to meet, that the representative council in modern times is preferred to the ancient convocations in the forum or mar­ket place. It is to be prized, because it affords facilities and removes hinderances in the discovery of truth; but the supreme power is truth, and not man; God, not the creature.

Now whatever representations diminish the authority of the Divine law as the supreme rule, and make the State the creature and organ of popular will, as if an absolute sove­reignty were vested in that, are equally repugnant to reli­gion and the true conception of our government. An abso­lute democracy is the worst of all governments, because it is judicially cursed as treason against God, and is given over to the blindness of impulse and passion. I am afraid that in this matter we have trodden upon the verge of error—we have forgotten that the State is ordained of God, and that our relations to each other are those of mutual consultation and advice, while all are absolutely subject to Him.

In proportion as we lose the true conception of the State, we fall short of realizing in ourselves that perfection of developement and happiness which it was instituted to achieve. Hence, it is not unusual that as extremes meet, those who in theory clothe the people with the prerogatives of God, practically degrade them below the level of intellectual exist­ence. When we cease to regard the State as a great instru­ment of moral education, it is not surprising that the educa­tion itself should be disregarded, and these Gods be left to demonstrate that after all, they are but men.

Let it be once conceded that government is but an organ of the popular will, the business of the statesman is very simple—it is only to find out what the people wish; and as all courts are attractive by the patronage they bestow, we may expect to see a system in operation, whose only tendency is to secure personal popularity. The ambition of Legislators and Senators will be directed to the gaining of popular favour, and whatever arts promise to be most successful, will be held to be legitimate, as they are the customs and usages of the Court, whose seal of approbation is desired. The consequences must be disastrous to all the parties concerned. There will and must be corruption and bribery. There will and must be unbecoming condescensions. The aspirants for distinction, however they may abhor these practices, and reproach themselves in stooping to them, feel compelled to resort to them as the conditions of success, and it will always happen that where the people are deified in theory, they will be degraded and corrupted in practice. Men will be pro­moted, not according to their wisdom and worth; not accord­ing to their ability to answer the ends of time State in elicit­ing the voice of reason and of truth, and securing the reign of universal justice—they will be promoted according to their pliancy in pandering to popular tastes. The demagogue will supplant the statesman—the representative be replaced with a tool.

These untoward tendencies should be checked in their very beginning and the most effectual method of doing so, is that each and every educated man should feel the responsibility upon him of contributing to the moral and intellectual improvement of the masses around him. We are all brethren, and as members of the same commonwealth should aim at the culture of the whole community. No man liveth to himself; no man dieth to himself. Let every one who is blessed with influence, position, and power, use these advantages in bringing all classes to that point of moral elevation in which the ballot box becomes the exponent of worth, and office the badge of merit. What a blessed consummation! We may never see it realized, but we may see it approximated. That approximation must be made by the influence of the rich upon the poor, the intelligent upon the ignorant. Each man may do much, and it would be a glorious result of this day’s services, if each should resolve that what he can do, whether much or little, shall be honestly and faithfully done among his own constituents.

I shall mention but one other instance of sin which, on this day, calls for humiliation and correction. It may be a consequence of those which have just been. insisted on; it is the deplorable extent to which our laws, especially in the punishment of crime, are prevented from being executed. It is a lesson which pervades the Bible, that States and communities may be dealt with as guilty of the crimes which they refuse or neglect to punish. The sixth of the seven precepts of Noah, which enjoins generally government and obedience, insists particularly upon time punishment of malefactors, as an indispensable condition of national prosperity and honour. When that species of transgression, which it is the proper office of the civil arm to rebuke, is permitted to escape with impunity, the land is defiled. The magistrate is not at liberty to bear the sword in vain-he must be a terror to evil doers, as well as a praise to them that do well. It is to be deplored, however, that while the moral sense of the community is properly shocked at the enormous wickedness of condemning the just, and dealing with him according to the deserts of iniquity, there is no such disgust at the equally revolting spectacle of treating the guilty with the impunity which is due only to innocence. A man may vio­late the law by crimes which cry to heaven for vengeance, and after the first ebullition of resentment has subsided, a sickly and mawkish benevolence interposes to arrest the pro­gress of justice; a feeling of pity and of childish tenderness to the person of the criminal prevents any adequate expres­sion, and, in many instances, any expression at all, of indig­nation and horror at the crime. In such cases the commu­nity assumes the guilt. It is regarded by God as endorsing the transgression, and in the righteous retributions of His providence, may, sooner or later, expect to reap the conse­quences in the judgments of His hand. There is no princi­ple which is more plainly stated, more clearly illustrated, more frequently exemplified in the sacred Scriptures, than that the punishment of malefactors is a duty. It is not dis­cretionary; not a thing of expediency or policy; it is a duty. God exacts and demands it, and no State or community can disregard this high and solemn obligation, without taking the place, in the sight of God, of time criminal it protects and favours. If it refuses, for example, to shed the blood of the murderer, the blood of the murdered will be visited upon its head.

There are two ways in which communities are punished for unpunished crimes. The first is by diffusing the contagion of the sin. The restraining influences of Divine grace and of human law are equally withheld, and the crimes which have been permitted to escape with impunity become multi­plied. God permits numbers to fall into them. The moral ties of the social fabric become loosened, and general insecu­rity is the fatal result. Other societies look upon them as wanting in dignity of moral sentiment. They are contemplated abroad in the light of the crimes they permit; they allow abominations among them; and this is regarded, and very justly regarded, as sufficient proof that they feel no strong resentment against them. From the necessary opera­tion of moral causes, the standard of character must become extremely low among any people who have no public and national expressions of displeasure against crime, or who, having them in form, a dead letter upon the statute-book, fail to make them real and effective in practice. It loses its position among surrounding States; forfeits the favour of God; contains time elements of weakness, which are insepar­able from a low standard of morals; the land is defiled, and will soon be prepared to spue out its inhabitants under the curse of God.

There are, besides, specific and positive judgments which the great Disposer of events has in store for the people that despise justice. The pestilence and earthquake, the cater­pillar and palmer worm, the heaven as brass and the earth as iron, war, blood and famine—these are but samples of the scourges which God has employed in former times, which He is employing now, and which He may employ hereafter to teach the nations of the earth; that it is righteousness alone which can exalt them, and that sin is a reproach to any people.

On this day, my brethren, have we not reason to appre­hend that our land mourns on account of unpunished crime? Does not the voice of innocent blood cry to us from the ground? Is not violence increasing in our borders? Is it not a fatal symptom, at once the cause and the effect of evil—a pregnant sign of the increasing insecurity of life, that secret weapons can be carried without branding their posses­sors as sons of Belial? No people has reached the highest stage of refinement until the authority of law and public opinion exactly coincide; and whenever this result is se­cured, private protection becomes unnecessary and gratuitous insult impossible. Let time law have its way; visit blood with blood; seize the murderer at the very horns of the altar, and let him not escape; and that process of deterioration, which begins in unpunished crime, will speedily be checked, and every honest man will be ashamed to be found with an implement of death about his person. It would brand him as a murderer at heart. This shocking practice of carrying concealed weapons ought, in some way, to be rebuked. It is a stain upon us. The first step is certainly to make human life secure, by never suffering it to be taken with impunity. But how bribed and corrupt juries are to be dealt with, except by the gradual progress of truth, civilization and religion, is a problem which I am incompetent to solve. It is something to know and confess the evil, and if we can do no more, we can this day cleanse our own skirts by taking shame and confusion to ourselves on account of the abounding iniquity. The repentance of the rulers may prevail on God to change the hearts of the ruled. Our earnest prayer that we and our land may be delivered from blood-guiltiness, may be heard in a blessing upon the whole Commonwealth.

My brethren, my task is done. I have endeavored to deal faithfully in showing the house of Judah their transgression, and Israel their sin. The consequences of this day will reach forward to eternity. If we have, indeed, humbled ourselves before the Lord, and repented of our own sins and the sins of our people, the same mercy which spared Nineveh and restored Manasseh to his country and his throne, will be full of blessings to us. If we can truly say of the Lord that He is our refuge and our fortress, He will surely deliver us from the snare of the fowler and from the noisome pestilence. We shall not he afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. It is he that giveth salvation unto kings—who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword. Now, in the name of this Commonwealth, the common mother of us all, let us offer up our fervent and united supplications, that ours may be that happy people whose God is the Lord. O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do Thou it for thy name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee. Oh, the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldst thou be a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night? Why shouldst Thou be as a man astonished, as a mighty man that cannot save? Yet Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by Thy name; leave us not.

Sermon – Christmas – 1818

Aaron Bancroft (1755-1839) was a minute-man who served during the Revolution, fighting at Lexington and Bunker Hill. He graduated from Harvard in 1778 and was a missionary in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia for 3 years. Bancroft served as pastor of the Congregational Church in Worcester, MA (1785-1839). The following Christmas sermon was preached in1818 in Worcester by Rev. Bancroft.


The Doctrine of Immortality.




Delivered in




A Christmas Sermon.

The human mind is prone to pass from one extreme to its opposite. This observation may be illustrated from the history of the Christian community. The Roman Catholic Church carried ceremonial observances in religious worship to extreme abuse. They canonized numerous saints, and appointed so many days to be religiously observed in honor of their memory, as greatly to int4erfere with the important business of society. Like the Pharisees of old, the rulers of this church, in its corrupt age, made religion essentially to consist in the superstitious observance of external forms; and public worship with them degenerated into a splendid but lifeless ceremonial service.

But when the English Church threw off the yoke of Popery, their rulers, in the opinion of many discerning and pious men, retained too many of the forms of the ecclesiastical establishment from which they separated. The ceremonies which they did preserve, were certainly enforced by measures which in their operation infringed the rights of private judgment, and violated the humane spirit of their religion.

Our ancestors, who fled from this imposition on conscience, associated with their disaffection to the dominating temper and the abusive practices of that hierarchy, a dislike to nearly all the circumstances common to its public services. Every instrument of music was excluded from houses of religious worship; and a form of ecclesiastical government and religious service was excluded from houses of religious worship; and a form of ecclesiastical government and religious service was adopted, the best suited, perhaps, to the infant state of the colony, but not fitted for a great and independent nation in the state of improved society.

Christmas was pre-eminently distinguished among the holy days of the Romish and the English church; and the general opposition of our forefathers to their superstitions and abuses was extended to this festival. They through several succeeding generations not only refused to join in the religious offices of the season, but they also scrupulously abstained on this anniversary from those articles of the table, which usually composed a part of a Christmas dinner.

We, their favored descendants, fondly cherish the highest veneration for their memories; we dwell with delight on their live of civil and religious liberty, on their piety and patriotism; our hearts are warmed by grateful recollections as often as we review the invaluable institutions which they have transmitted to us; and at the same time we rejoice that we are liberated from the prejudices which their situation rendered unavoidable Not feeling the pressure of that iron hand which bore heavily on them, we can calmly separate accidental circumstances from essential principles. With higher means of instruction, we can consistently drop the weak and indifferent appendages of their system, while we sacredly adhere to its sound and vital parts.

In respect to ceremonial observances, a more liberal spirit now prevails through our country. In many of our religious societies organs have been in introduced in church music; and in most of them other instruments are now used without giving offence. While, in the progress of society, all other institutions have their appropriate ornaments, many think, that if social worship be left without decoration, it will be destitute of those external attraction, which to a large portion of mankind are beneficial, if not necessary. And they imagine that embellishment may be introduced without corrupting the spirituality, or lessening the moral influence of public worship.

Situated as we are, may we not, without unreasonable bias, determine the degree of estimation in which Christmas services ought to be holden by a Christian community? The New Testament has not appointed anniversary services in commemoration of the birth of our Savior. If we celebrate this event, we should consider it as a privilege with which we are indulged, not as a duty divinely enjoined. This celebration is not by divine authority appointed; it is not by divine authority forbidden. Its expediency should be determined by its probable effects. We publicly commemorate the anniversary of our national independence; we publicly honor the memories of the benefactors of our country. Is it not then proper, that we should celebrate the advent of Emanuel into our world? Is any other event great in comparison with this? Has any other being appeared among men to whom we are under obligations of gratitude, when compared with him?

Should any object to the time of this celebration, on the plea,, that we have not conclusive proof respecting the particular day on which our Savior was born, our answer is, the objection on the point before us has no force. Christ the Savior was born into our world; whether we celebrate his appearance on the precise day of his birth, or on some other, to a religious purpose is a circumstance of no importance. The Christian community in general entertain the same opinion respecting the time; if the event be publicly noticed, it is convenient, and therefore desirable, that there should be uniformity in the day of celebration.

The useful purposes contemplated by the religious observances of the season are these : to direct our serious attention to the great salvation, which Jesus Christ descended from heaven to publish to a sinful world; to excite in us suitable returns of gratitude for the inestimable privileges we possess as his disciples; to animate us to sustain with firmness and consistency the Christian profession; to inspire us with diligence in the cultivation of the Christian graces and virtues; and to insure our perseverance in the path towards Christian perfection.

The passage of Scripture which I have chosen as the theme of our Discourse, will be found in

HOSEA xiii. 14. I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plague. O grave, I will be thy destruction.

THOUGH these sublime declarations be considered as having a primary reference to the nation of Israel, yet, in their general sense, they may without violence be taken as expressive of the great doctrine of immortality, which Jesus Christ came into our world to establish and proclaim. In this doctrine we all have the deepest interest. Admit, that existence of endless duration, and of unchangeable happiness, is attainable by us, and all worldly objects lose their comparative worth. Admit, that the Christian path leads to the realms of glory, honor and immortality, and the motives to Christian piety and virtue are presented to the human mind, which all the temptations to the unlawful pursuits and to the inordinate indulgences of the world cannot weaken. Can we then, my Christian brethren, better improve the season, than in contemplating our title to eternal life by the promise of the Gospel? We then shall be excited to religious gratitude to him, who died that we might live forever; we shall establish ourselves in the resolution strenuously to exert ourselves to acquire the qualifications of the disciple of the Prince of Life; and shall, by the blessing of God, become prepared to passion in the way of salvation with joy and gladness.

From our text, we will,

1. Review in a cursory manner the history of the doctrine of immortality among the nations of the earth before the birth of our Savior.

2. Attend to the information of the Gospel on this important subject.

3. Consider the influence which the instruction and the promises of the Gospel ought to have on our dispositions and conduct.

1. To review the history of the doctrine of immortality among the nations of the earth before the birth of our Savior.

The expectation of a future state of existence has been common to men in every age of the world. Nations the most ignorant and barbarous discover this persuasion. Men, who appear to have bounded their inquiries by the simple wants of animal existence, express their belief of life beyond the grave. Whether these apprehensions naturally result from religious principles, interwoven into the human constitution principles, interwoven into the human constitution and which cause men, without the aid of revelation or philosophy, to rise superior to the threatening appearances of death, and to embrace the hope of immortality; or, whether these are traditionary notions, transmitted from the early age of the world, and which had their origin in divine communication, is not easy to determine. The unquestionable fact is, that men, in situations the most unfavorable for religious inquiries, have entertained the expectation of existence after death. Though they believe the human body to be corruptible; though they are the witnesses of the death of their friends, and see their bodies mingling with the dust; yet they imagine their deceased relations and acquaintances still to exist, and they suppose them existing with the same bodily shape, with the same appetites and passions, which they possessed on earth. Being unacquainted with the higher pleasures of an intellectual and moral nature, the heaven of the ignorant savage consists in the gratification of animal desires; and his expected happiness in a future world is merely the completion of his earthly wishes.

The theological systems of those Heathen nations which had made the greatest attainments in science and literature, were not favorable to the acquisition of religious knowledge, or the cultivation of the moral virtues. These systems contained many principles well calculated to make ignorant men the submissive subjects of civil government, and recommended a round of weak and debasing services, fitted, in the apprehension of a deluded people, to induce the Presiding Divinity propitiously to regard national prosperity and individual safety; but which possessed little to instruct inquiring mind respecting the nature of moral government, or to enlighten the man in rational views of futurity, who was anxiously desirious to look behind the curtain of death. A man might scrupulously fulfil every requisition of the established religion of Greece and Rome, and at the same time cherish the worst propensities of the human heart, and habitually indulge himself in the most impure acts of vice. The doctrines respecting futurity, publicly inculcated, were blended with extravagant fables and superstitious rites, and they did not furnish adequate motives to persuade men to discipline their passions, or soberly to govern their lives.

The reasonings of the Heathen philosophers never gave satisfaction on the subject of immortality. The wisest of them labored for the discovery of proofs to establish this interesting position in theology. Their arguments are plausible, and perhaps lay a foundation for the support of a good moral life, and for hope in death; but the greatest of them express uncertainty on the point, and acknowledge that adequate information can never be obtained, unless it should please God to send a messenger from heaven to publish to the family of man his future intentions respecting them. None of the Heathens sages had any apprehensions of the resurrection of the body; and many of them, in their reasonings on the doctrine of immortality, bewildered themselves with metaphysical distinctions, and darkened the subject by words without knowledge. Perhaps a candid and discerning man would rise from the perusal of all the dissertations composed by the moral philosophers of the old world on the doctrine of immortality, with a mind rather perplexed than enlightened; with his doubts and fears rather multiplied, than his belief and hope established. This appears to have been the state of the case in the Gentile world on the point before us. The natural reason and conscience of men direct their views to a future life, in which they will receive a reward corresponding with their present actions. Every man, learned and ignorant, perceives the influence of these principles. Moral philosophers stretched their powers to lay a stable foundation for the belief of that future existence of which they had a glimpse, and to acquire adequate views of that condition of being to which they aspired; but they did not succeed; they arrived not at a conclusion on which they could rely with certainty or satisfaction. In the vain attempt to define the human soul, and to explain the mode of its future existence, and the manner of its future exercises, they met with insuperable difficulties, and divided into various sects. Some of them, failing in the endeavor to support a favorite hypothesis by solid arguments, renounced their scheme, and with it the doctrine of immortality, and stifled the natural apprehensions of the human mind as erroneous.

The people of Israel possessed better means of instruction on the sublime doctrine of immortality, than had the Pagan nations around them. They were taught the unity, the holiness, and the universal supremacy of God. They had the fullest evidence of the super intendency of God over the affairs of men. Their history furnished them with examples of an immediate intercourse with the spiritual world; and the translation of Enoch and Elijah were fitted to raise their views to a higher state of being. I cannot therefore for a moment doubt, that the individuals among this people, who were distinguished for their piety, supported themselves, under the trials of the present life, by a belief of a future state of retribution, and died in the hope of a blessed immortality. Nor can I suppose, that the nation generally were destitute of the expectation of a future life. But we know that the Sadducees, not a small sect, totally rejected, even in the time of our Savior, the doctrine future existence : they said “that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit.” The Mosaick institution was preparatory to that of the Gospel. In the doctrine of immortality was but imperfectly revealed. Future rewards and punishments composed no part of the sanction of the law of Moses. Indeed, some learned and pious Christians are of the opinion, that was the doctrine is not to be found in this dispensation. We cannot with certainty say, that the devout Jews, who believed in a future state, adopted the opinion merely on the authority of their sacred books.

The result of our review then is this. The doctrine of the immortality of man was not established with moral certainty before the appearance of Jesus Christ in our world.

Let us,

2. Attend to the information of the Gospel on this important subject.

Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light. Jesus, the Prince of Life, has dispersed the clouds which obscured our prospects of a future state. He has solved the doubts on this subject which perplexed the wisest of men. He has broken down the wall of partition between time and eternity, and presented the heavenly world to our view in all its glories. He has established the doctrine of a future retribution on a foundation that cannot be moved, made it an adequate support of a pious and virtuous life, and the sure ground of hope and joy in death. By his own resurrection he has given an earnest of the future resurrection of his disciples. Then the prophetical declaration of our text will be fully accomplished. “I am he,” says our Savior, “that liveth and was dead : and behold I am alive forever more, and have the keys of death.” “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” “The hour is coming, in which all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and come forth.” “The sea shall give up the dead that are in it; and death and the grave shall deliver up the dead that are in them.” “We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Such is the language of the New-Testament on this subject.

Arguments in favor of immortality, drawn from the nature of the human soul, from the attributes of God, from the traces of a moral government visible in the present state and from every view which can be taken of natural religion, all have their place in the defense of Christianity, and help to make it the more credible. But the information of the Gospel on the doctrine of our future existence is most plain and direct. It is adapted to every capacity, and fitted to enlighten every mind. It is information, not given as the result of abstract reasoning and logical deduction, but it is given by the Parent of Life, and the moral Governor of the Universe; and he, in his goodness and mercy, has been pleased to confirm our faith in his divine communication, by raising his Son from the grave, whom he commissioned to publish the glad tidings of salvation to a guilty world. The future existence of men is exemplified to human view in the renewed life of the savior; and our belief of its reality may rest on a fact capable of proof like other facts — a fact made credible to us by the testimony of plain men, who were witnesses of its reality; and whose testimony is fortified by their general character, by the cheerful sacrifice of worldly interest and of life in support of their veracity, and by every circumstance which has attended the establishment and preservation of Christianity.

The enlightened, the confirmed Christian, cannot doubt his own immortality. He can never entertain fears of annihilation, from the mere contemplation of which our minds recoil in horror.

The more forcibly to show the value of the instruction of the Gospel, permit me to place before you in contrast, the views of a Heathen and of a Christian philosopher on our subject. We will select, as an example, the moral sage who was a master of all Grecian and Roman learning, who wrote on the nature of the Presiding Divinity, on moral virtue, and on the immortality of man, and who, in every accomplishment, stood pre-eminent among the great and the wise. Cicero, the ornament and the boast of Rome, observes, that one time a future state seemed to him to be fully proved; that at another, all his arguments appeared to vanish and he was left in doubt. He remarks, that it was in his retired moments, and whilst he devoted himself to deep meditation, that he felt satisfied with the result of his researches, and without reserve admitted the belief of immortality; and that, as soon as he entered society, other feelings arose, and amidst worldly pursuits the expectation of a future life passed from his mind. Writing to a friend, Cicero expresses himself in the following manner: — “I do not see, why I may not venture to declare freely to you what my thoughts are concerning death. Perhaps I may discover, better than others, what it is , because I am now, by reason of my age, not far from it. I believe that the Fathers, those eminent persons and my particular friends, are still alive, and that they live the life which only deserves the name of life. Nor has reason only and disputation brought me to the belief, but the famous judgment and authority of the chief philosophers. O glorious day! when I shall go to the council and assembly of spirits; when I shall go out of this tumult and confusion; when I shall be gathered to all those brave spirits who have left the world; and when I shall meet the greatest and best of men. But if, after all, I am mistaken herein, I am pleased with my error, which I would not willingly part with, while I live; and if, after my death, I shall be deprived of all sense, I have no fear of being imposed upon and laughed at in the other world for this my mistake.”

Here the moral philosopher of Rome mentions a future state of being as a probable truth, and as the object of his hope, but not as a doctrine founded on such clear proof as to fix his unshaken faith. Even this probability draws from him an impassioned eulogy on its felicity. But his doubts damp the ardor of his feelings, and he derives security to his hope from the consideration, that if the present life should close human existence, annihilation will free him from ridicule.

St. Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, was also a believer in the doctrine of man’s immortality. He entertained the hope of being admitted, at death, not only to the spirits of just men made perfect, but also to the assembly of angels, to the company of his Divine Master, and to the presence of God. But his opinion rested not on that slight evidence which, thought sufficient to charm the imagination under the shade of philosophy, or in the silent hour of meditation, yet did not furnish a principle to support the mind under the conflicts of the world. The belief of eternal life was so fully established in his mind, as to become the first object of desire, and the goal to which every exertion was directed. To preach the doctrine of the resurrection and of eternal life, he was ready to sacrifice all worldly enjoyments; and while suffering the heaviest evils incident to the present state of man, he declared, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.” Paul also, has left a treatise on death and immortality. In it he expresses neither doubt nor anxiety : he declares the proof of future existence to be complete and satisfactory : so fully was his mind possessed of the expectation of immortal life, that to him it became a present reality : a view of its glories transp0orts his should; and he breaks forth in songs of joy and triumph — “O! death where is thy sting? O! grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We will,

3. Consider the influence which the instruction and the promises of the Gospel ought to have on our dispositions and conduct.

Whether we consider the object of the instruction and promises of the Gospel, or the character of the Being who gave them, we shall perceive the value of our Christian privileges, and feel our obligation to improve them. The object is a blessed immortality; their author Christ, the Son of God to the goodness and mercy of God are we indebted for the scheme of our salvation. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have ever lasting life. But Christ devoted himself, as Mediator, to the execution of the purposes of divine grace and mercy. The angels of heaven were the heralds of the advent of Emanuel; and proclaiming his birth, they gave glory to God on high, and published peace and good will to men. In the high concern of our salvation, Jesus appeared in the nature of man, subjected himself to all the wants of humanity, endured the contradiction of sinners, and yielded himself the victim of the cross. Grateful to God for the gifts of his Son, grateful to Christ for his voluntary mediation, Let us under the influence of our religion, conform ourselves to the divine image, and imitate the example of the Saviour. God in his goodness has given us an assurance of future life : do we with indifference receive the information? In mercy he has by his own Son promised us endless felicity in a future world, on conditions which rove that he consults our present as well as our immortal happiness : can we be unmoved by the gift?

Respecting the influence which religion ought to have on our tempers and practices we may take useful lessons, even from those whose ignorance and superstition we justly compassionate. The infatuated Pagan, in compliance with the requisitions of his system, with alacrity subject himself to the severest bodily tortures, and with apparent delight offers his life in sacrifice to his idol deity. The deluded follower of Mahomet never supposes his religious duty performed, till he has made a painful journey to Mecca, and worshipped at the tomb of his prophet. Shall we Christians, then, we who are instructed in all truth pertaining to eternal life and vindicated into perfect liberty, refuse gratefully to acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Master? Shall we neglect to observe those gracious directions which are designed to transform us into a likeness of his perfect character, to make us in disposition the most amiable, in practice the most benevolent and to qualify us for the society of heaven?

May the example of primitive Christians more especially, enliven our diligence in the path of piety and virtue, and fortify our minds with resolution to sustain the conflicts of our probationary course. Animated by the hope of the Gospel, the apostles of our Lord subjected themselves to all terrors of persecution, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. The great body of the first converts to our religion gave full evidence of their faith in the promises of the gospel, and clearly manifested that it had a salutary influence on their tempers and lives. These died in the faith, not having received the promises; but seeing the afar off, were persuaded of their reality, embraced them as the objects of their supreme dependence, and in consequence professed themselves strangers and pilgrims on earth. The motives and assistances, which supported them, are presented to our minds, and our course is free from many of the difficulties and dangers, with which theirs was beset. Let us then, imitate those who, through faith and patience have inherited the promises.

As Christians, we are bound to give a fair exemplification of our religion before the world. As candidates for immortality, it is our first duty and our highest interest to walk worthily of our Christian vocation; for the salvation of our souls is suspended on the improvement of our privileges as the disciples of Jesus Christ. May our religion in its life dwell in our hearts; may it in all its beauty and lustre shine in our lives.

In the consciousness of sincerity and diligence in the high concerns of our probation, let us open our minds to the hope and the joy, to which the Christian character is entitled. Disposed to approach the light of truth, and make it manifest that our deeds are wrought in God, a dependence on the promises of the Gospel being in us the principle of Christian life, let not debasing fear enter into our religious services; but through all worldly vicissitudes, let us rejoice in the Lord, and joy ourselves in the God of our salvation. Not resting satisfied with the things that are seen, but seeking first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, may we with supreme delight consider ourselves as children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, unto an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that will not fade away. — Amen.

*Originally Posted: Dec. 25, 2016

Sermon – Fasting – 1812

Moses Dow (1771-1837) graduated from Dartmouth in 1796. He was pastor of the Second Church in Beverly, MA (1801-1813) and in York, ME (1815-1830). This sermon was preached by Dow on August 20, 1812 on the national fast day, and again on April 8, 1813 on the Massachusetts state fast day.





AUGUST 20, 1812,







APRIL 8, 1813,





Luke xix. 41, 42.


WHEN our Saviour uttered these pathetic words, he was on his last journey to Jerusalem. There he was going to shed his blood and lay down his life for the redemption and salvation of a lost world. It was not a prospect of his own sufferings which thus affected him. These he had always expected, and was prepared to meet, with heroic and divine fortitude. But a forefight of the miseries coming upon that ungrateful, persecuting city, by the awful justice of God, filled his sympathetic soul with the liveliest impressions of grief. He feared not death; but cheerfully led the way to the place of his execution. From the Mount of Olives he entered the city Jerusalem, riding upon an ass’ colt, amidst the loud acclamations of joy from the whole multitude of his disciples. But when the benevolent Saviour beheld THE DEVOTED CITY, he burst into tears. Pondering upon the Jews’ willful obstinacy—their rejection of all the offers of grace, and the utter ruin which awaited the city, the temple, and its inhabitants, he wept, with the tenderest compassion. And he exclaimed, “as with a wish, or ardent desire,” If thou hadst known, or, Oh that thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! The Jews’ day, here intended, was the time in which they had been honoured and favoured with the presence of MESSIAH, their King. This was their day; for Christ and the first preachers of the gospel had spent all their time and labour at Jerusalem. They had been taught repeatedly, by Christ and his apostles, the things which belonged to their peace, prosperity and happiness. But they disregarded their message, would not believe their report, nor follow their instructions. Their hearts were hardened and their minds blinded with a spirit of infatuation. And being left under strong delusions to believe a lie, they preferred falsehood to truth. Thus this once prosperous city was judicially given up of God; her day of gracious privilege was hen expired,—her doom was passed, and every thing conducive to her welfare was, in righteous judgment, “hidden from her eyes.” When Jesus approached this devoted place, a view from the neighbouring hills awakened, in his sympathizing bosom, the liveliest emotions of pity. Though he was about to predict the entire desolation of the city, he did not desire the woeful day:—he did not delight in the destruction even of such wicked people. And therefore he exclaims, in the language of ardent desire, mixed with regret, “Oh, that thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.”

The propositions, which we conceive deducible from this passage, are the following:

1. Nations and individuals may neglect the things which belong to their peace, till their case is desperate and past all remedy.

2. A prospect of ruin and misery coming upon the despisers of God’s mercy, will excite the tenderest compassion of all who have the spirit of Christ.

FIRST. Nations and individuals may neglect the things which belong to their peace, till their case is desperate and past all remedy. Short is the period of human life, even though we linger out threescore years and ten. And shorter still may be the day of God’s gracious forbearance, and man’s favourable opportunity to secure the divine favour. For numbers, in every age, “despise the riches of the goodness, forbearance and longsuffering of God; not knowing that his goodness leads to repentance: but after their hardness and impenitent heart, they treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.” They put far away the evil day, till, by long indulgence, they become feared in conscience, and incurably hardened in sin. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, their hearts are fully set in them to do evil.” God bears with them from time to time. He tries various expedients to turn them from their wicked purposes, to truth and holiness. He visits them with mercies and judgments—with warnings and invitations—with threatenings and promises. But when they have long turned a deaf ear to all his counsels, slighted his proposals, and undervalued his unspeakable blessings;—when they persevere in resisting, quenching and grieving his Holy Spirit, they are ripening fast for remediless destruction. For the Lord has expressly said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” The Spirit of God long strove with men of the old world, by inspiring Enoch, Noah and others to preach and to warn them. He long and patiently bore with them, notwithstanding their rebellions, waiting to be gracious. But, at length, incensed by their obstinate resistance to the warnings of his prophets and the remonstrances of their own consciences, he solemnly resolved to leave them to e hardened in sin, and to ripen for destruction. In like manner the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, by their filthy and abominable wickedness, provoked the Lord, not only to withdraw his restraints, but to make them the monuments of his eternal vengeance. The most astonishing forbearance the Lord manifested also toward the Israelites in the wilderness. Forty years long was he grieved with that generation. At length, grown indignant by their incessant murmurings, ingratitude and rebellion, he sware in his wrath that they should not enter his rest. Their short and limited season of probation was then closed, and their state of eternal retribution commenced.

If we trace the history of the several kingdoms of Judah and Israel, we find them subject to frequent and alternate changes from prosperity to adversity. They were taught, by experience, the truth of that divine aphorism, “WHEN THE RIGHTEOUS ARE IN AUTHORITY, THE PEOPLE REJOICE; BUT WHEN THE WICKED BEARETH RULE, THE PEOPLE MOURN.”

When such men as David and Josiah were their kings, their times were times of reformation, and Providence smiled upon all their concerns. But when such as Ahab, Jeroboam and Manasseh ruled over them, Providence frowned, wickedness increased, and the land mourned. In consequence of the great wickedness of the people, their day of gracious visitation was generally short—their fun of prosperity was soon covered with a dark cloud of adversity.

If we descend to later times, the glory of empires, kingdoms and nations appears still more transitory and fading. On the page of history many of them suddenly arise to view, exhibit a temporary splendor, and then quickly disappear, and are seen no more. By various massacres, famines, pestilence and revolutionary scenes, an immense multitude of governments has arisen, since the dispersion of the Jewish nation. But their prosperity and glory have been like “the morning cloud and the early dew.” Where righteousness has abounded, the nation has been exalted; but when sin has prevailed, it has quickly sunk in reproach and ruin. This has ever been the course of providence toward nations; and such will ever be its course to the end of time. Those, who make his laws their model, and his word their guide, God will bless and prosper; but those, who forsake his ordinances and the light of his word, he will leave to certain destruction—to perish without remedy. Where now are the once flourishing governments of Asia—the birth-place of man, of prophets, apostles, and the Saviour of the world? Alas, they are crumbled to ruins. Once they were the theatres of mighty works—the residence of many holy men, and the scenes of remarkable divine interposition. Jerusalem, that city of solemnities, that cradle of God’s ancient church, where resided the symbols of his presence, is now a heap of ruins. It was often and alternately rebuilt and destroyed by contending parties; but finally, according to the express prediction of our Saviour, it was utterly demolished by Titus. In exact fulfillment of the prophecy, about forty years after it was uttered, the city was razed to the ground; and its inhabitants destroyed. Indeed, so complete was the destruction of this renowned city, that not one stone was left upon another; but turned up by the Roman plough, in quest of plunder. This was in righteous judgment—for their crying sins; BECAUSE THEY WOULD NOT REGARD THE HINGS WHICH BELONGED TO THEIR PEACE.

Greece and Rome, once the seats of arts and sciences, the most powerful empires and mistresses of the world, corrupted, debauched and divided, have long since fallen a prey to savage invaders. A deluge of ignorance, barbarism and superstition has effaced the mountains of former learning and magnificence. Their proud ambition, enormous cruelties and abominable wickedness provoked Heaven to blot them from the list of nations. A new race have sprung up, to inherit their territory, who have formed governments, and had their day of prosperity. Holland, Switzerland, Italy and Germany were once independent, free and prosperous states. But not knowing the time of their visitation—not minding the things which belonged to their peace, they became infatuated, and then fell an easy prey to “the mighty power under whose iron rod all Europe groans” and bleeds at every pore. And they fell, not in the high places of the field—not by force of arms; but by blindly yielding to the insidious arts of their designing conquerors. They had drunken of “the wine of astonishment,” by which they were intoxicated, divided and enfeebled; and “then their ruin because inevitable.”—And can we say that our own nation is in no danger from this intoxicating cup, of losing the things which belong to its peace? Alas, whatever be the cause, our prosperity and glory are, in a measure, gone, our peace is fled, and war, with all its baneful attendants, is now our portion! The cause may be traced to our sins, which testify against us. These have provoked the Lord to anger; and his anger against sin is the sole cause of all misery, personal and relative, individual and national, temporal and eternal. The sins of professing churches have often provoked the anger of Heaven to remove their candlestick out of its place;—nations tremble for the same cause: yea, the whole earth, and creation itself, groan under the load of man’s guilt. The judgments of God are abroad in the earth, because of the wickedness of men. And when we consider the fury and rage, the mutual earnage and destruction of nations, does is not appear that they have been drinking of the intoxicating cup of God’s holy indignation? Else why are they thus maddened in their passions to wreak their vengeance on one another? Why does a nation, upon the slightest pretext, rise up against nation, so that “blood toucheth blood?” And does not the compassionate Saviour now weep over this infatuated land? Does he not say to America, in the language of our test, “Oh, that thou hadst known, even thou, at least, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! Oh, that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! Then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” Had we as a nation hearkened to the God of our fathers, and to the maxims of wisdom contained in his word, this had, even now, been our happy case. We should not have been compelled to witness “the confused noise of the warrior, and garments rolled in blood.” Had we, our fathers, our princes and people, all united in maintaining the worship of God, and unfeigned obedience to his laws, our national prosperity would not have been interrupted. The things which belong to our peace would not have been hidden from our eyes. The blessings engaged to Israel, while they adhered to the service of Jehovah, might have been expected in this happy land. “Our sons would have been as plants, grown up in their youth,—our daughters as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace. Our garners would have been full, affording all manner of store;—our sheep would have brought forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets—our oxen would have been strong to labour—there would have been no breaking in nor going out,—no complaining in our streets. Happy is the people that is in such a case; yea, happy is the people, whose God is the Lord.”—Such are the blessings, which, in the ordinary course of providence, are generally conferred on nations, whose rulers and people faithfully follow the maxims of the gospel. And such happiness would have been thine, O America, had this been thy uniform character. But how art thou fallen from thy former greatness! How is thy glory departed! “How is the gold become dim, and the most fine gold changed!” Time was, when we were the envy of the world. The fame of our independence, freedom and prosperity rang, through the channels of COMMERCE, to the remotest nations. The wealth of almost every clime was, through this medium, wafted to our shores. By this our national treasury was replenished—agriculture and manufactures flourished—learning and the arts advanced with rapid pace, and we were swiftly emulating the greatness of the first in rank in the old world. Happy, thrice happy. O Americans, had ye known what happiness was yours—had ye regarded the things which belonged to your peace. But alas, how are they hidden from our eyes! We are now,

2d. To shew that a prospect of ruin and misery coming upon the despisers of God’s mercy will excite the tenderest compassion of all who have the spirit of Christ.

David that eminent type of our Saviour, exhibits, in a lively degree, this sympathetic, Christian affection. “Horror, says he, hath taken hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake thy law.” “Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.” “I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved, because they kept not thy word.”—Having the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, he was grieved to the very heart, to see others blindly rushing to their own ruin. A view of their sinful character and awfully dangerous state filled him with the mingled emotions of grief, indignation and pity. He mourned the wickedness of men and the dishonor of God, more than his own sufferings; and he wept a flood of tears. And no one has a right to pretend to the spirit of Christ, unless the sin and misery of others thus deeply affect him.

To rejoice in another’s calamity is the very temper of hell! To rejoice in the hope and prospect that his calamity will work for his good, is a very different thing. This is consistent with that Christian benevolence, which regards our neighbor as ourselves. If sore afflictions appear necessary to humble and reform a bold transgressor, and seem likely to produce that happy effect, then we ought to acquiesce in the divine method, and pray for its success. But to rejoice purely in another’s distress is inhuman, antichristian and diabolical. The benevolent Saviour and his inspired saints have taught us a better spirit, and set us a better example. They mourned and wept, even for those who thirsted to shed their innocent blood. But though Jesus was a man of sorrows, and often groaned and wept in view of suffering humanity; yet the blind infatuation, pride and obstinacy of sinners distressed far more his sympathetic soul. “He looked on the PHARISEES with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” And when he beheld the infatuated city of Jerusalem, in spite of all his counsels, warnings and entreaties, rushing headlong into ruin, his pitiful soul dissolved into tears. And were the Saviour now visible we should doubtless behold him weeping over the condition and prospect of our own guilty land! Our peace, prosperity and happiness are on the rapid decline, and war, adversity, and a host of evils, assume their place.

Liberty, too, the pride, the darling and boast of Americans, like a hunted, persecuted fugitive, seems on the point of seeking some more hospitable clime. Driven from nation to nation, and from one end of earth to another, like Noah’s dove, she an scarcely find rest for the sole of her foot. For a course of years she has found an asylum, protection and patronage in this western world. But her residence becomes more and more precarious. For already have many begun to treat this celestial visitant with neglect, or cold contempt!

1 [Preferring the unbounded indulgence of licentiousness to the wholesome restraints implied in genuine liberty, INFURIATE MOBS burst the barriers which heaven and earth have raised for the security of life, property and happiness. The deplorable condition of a sister state excites the indignant groans and sympathy of all the humane—of all the followers of the Lamb. That city, which, like Jerusalem, had been highly exalted in privilege, wealth and splendor, is now doomed to be the prey of those, who reverence no laws, respect no character, and whose tender mercies are cruel. Even the distant report of their maddened fury is enough to chill the blood, and freeze the soul with horror! It reminds us of that furious mob, who wreaked their vengeance on Stephen, the first Christian martyr. In his defence before the Jewish council, his pungent discourse cut to the heart his violent persecutors, and they, like ferocious beasts, “gnashed on him with their teeth.”

Being full of the Holy Ghost, he saw in vision a display of heavenly glory. And when he proclaimed aloud, before his exasperated persecutors, the glorious scene presented to his view, “they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord.” Then, with brutal ferocity and infernal rage, they “case him out of the city, and stoned him” to death!

A familiar mob persecuted the immaculate Savior of the world. They misinterpreted all his words and actions, multiplied their false accusations against him, and treated him with every personal insult and indignity. Nothing, in short, would satisfy their bloodthirsty fury, till they had inflicted, upon their unoffending victim, the most ignominious and torturing death!

Thus we see that human nature is the same, in all periods, and persecuting mobs were known as early as the apostolic age. From their unbridled ferocity and horrid misrule may Heaven preserve us. “O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united.”]

Had we, as a nation, regarded the things which belong to our peace, scenes of riot, misrule and civil war had never commenced among us. Had we followed the maxims of the gospel, in all our private and public relations and capacities;—had we “studied the things which make for peace, and things whereby one might edify another,” we had still remained a united people, owned and blessed of the Lord. But by our various sins we have made God our enemy; and unless he turn away his anger, and have mercy upon us, we must assuredly perish. We humbly hope and trust that “the things which belong to our peace” are not forever hidden from our eyes. We hope a precious remnant may yet be reserved, for whose sake God will be entreated to spare a guilty land. Were it not for this pious remnant, we had, ere now, been as Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim!

There is no truth in the Bible more plain than this, That it is on account of the righteous God bears with wicked nations. Should these be all removed, the wrath of heaven would soon burst upon their guilty survivors. In proportion as this class are multiplied, promoted, and abound in fruits of righteousness, will be the prosperity of any people. On the contrary, the more wickedness and wicked men are increased and exalted, the more the anger of heaven is enkindled, and ruin hastens apace.

Let our nation turn to the Lord, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance.—Let ministers and people unite in following the maxims of the gospel. And then, be assured, the doom of Jerusalem shall not be ours. God will be our shield, and no weapons formed against us, shall eventually prosper.

But should we go on unmindful of the things which belong to our peace—and could we succeed, in conquering the only free nation on earth, except our own;—the nation, who, bad as she is, is doing more than all the world besides in extending the word of life and the blessings of Christianity, to millions ready to perish! 2—Could we succeed in conquering that nation, which now, under Providence, stnds between us and ruin—what should we gain? Alas, nought but poverty, vice and slavery;—nought but a deadly alliance with that infidel, atheistical power, “whose armies shall soon be assembled at Armageddon, and fall in the battle of the great day of God Almighty.”

The greatest of all earthly judgments, with which we could be visited, would be an intimate confederacy with infidel powers. For vice, like the plague, is contagious. As sure as we become partakers of mystical Babylon’s sins, we must receive of her plagues. Our religion, under God, is our defence and our glory. Should his be destroyed, and atheism prevail, then farewell to our peace and happiness forever!

Shall we not all, my friends, imitate the mourning Jesus, and weep over our infatuated country? Our former glory is departed. “Darkness covers the land, and thick darkness the people.” Our joy is turned into mourning, and our abused mercies into desolating judgments. Already, distress wrings many a heart, and horrors of thick darkness brood on many a countenance. The arm of industry is palsied by the sickening aspect of the times, and anxiety is all alive in expectation of scenes more tremendous! Thousands of wives, parents, and other connections, now feel a dreadful solicitude for husbands, children and friends, who are in danger of falling a prey to a provoked enemy. The prospect that numerous widows, orphans and beggars will be multiplied by this desolating judgment, must give pain to every heart, that delights not in war and human misery. Our only consolation and hope, in this distressing season, are in the government and perfections of God. But even this hope and consolation we cannot expect to realize, if our sins continue to testify against us, and we remain impenitent. The rod of divine correction will still be stretched over us, and the besom of destruction will sweep us away, unless we take refuge in the Ark of safety, unless we “break off our sins by righteousness, and our iniquities by turning unto God.” “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

Be exhorted, my friends, to secure this refuge, and then you need not be afraid of evil tidings. “The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings. His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” Do you wish to avoid Jerusalem’s doom, and to shun the plagues of antichristian despoilers? Then beware of the fascinating cup. Beware of “THE WINE OF ASTONISHMENT.” Beware of snares laid privily for your destruction. Sell not your birthright for a mess of pottage. Barter not your religion, your Saviour and your souls, for any paltry gratification, which flattering infidels may offer. But behold the banner of the Prince of peace. Enlist under Christ as your Leader and Commander. Let his word be your sword, faith your shield, and hope your helmet of salvation. This is the contest, to which we are called. This is the warfare, to which the trumpet of the gospel invites you. Join, as volunteers, this standard, and then, whatever be the doom of your country, victory is yours. YOU SHALL COME OFF MORE THAN CONQUERORS, THROUGH CHRIST, WHO HATH LOVED US.



1. The subsequent part of the discourse, enclosed in brackets, was pronounced with the rest on the first delivery, but at the last time was omitted, as less pertinent. A few sentences towards the close have also been added, which the reader will excuse.

2. It is said that the Bible and Missionary societies of Great-Britain are paying, as a free will offering, not less than five hundred thousand dollars, annually, to promote the gospel among the heathen and others destitute of the means of religious instruction. And all this in addition to the millions they expend to support the gospel at home.—See Rev. Mr. Webster’s Thanksgiving Sermon, Nov. 26, 1812.

* Originally Posted: Dec. 26, 2016

Sermon – July 4th – 1825, Pennsylvania

James Patterson preached this sermon on July 4, 1825 in Philadelphia.












JULY 4, 1825.

Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in the Northern Liberties.


We have yielded to the solicitations of the friends of religion; that the sermon delivered on the 4th of July, on SLAVERY, be immediately given to the public. And though owing to feeble health, and the extreme heat of the season, it was not prepared as it ought to have been – being got up for the particular occasion – Neither now can it be revised, as we could wish, before publication – Yet if there be anything in it that will add to the great cause of CHRISTIANITY and the RIGHTS OF MAN, we cheerfully yield it – and the glory be to God.

We believe that there is an excitement among Christians throughout the world, on the awful subject of slavery, such as never was since the commencement of the Christian era. And whenever the saints shall take hold of this subject as they ought, as sure as the sun shines SLAVERY must come to an end; and all its abettors, if they persist in it, will be destroyed.

We have added some things in an appendix; exhibiting the present state of slavery – in the exertions making for an universal emancipation – and its practices among the ancient pagan nations – and something of its origin.


A SERMON, &c.EXODUS IV. 22,23.


Christian Brethren,

We are assembled today to commemorate one of the most glorious events recorded in our history: and we would here take occasion to give thanks to God that American citizens begin to celebrate this day in the sanctuary, instead of the places of sinful revelry. But while offering up our prayers and thanks to our Great Deliverer for our political redemption, Fellow citizens will you suffer us to remind you of a race of beings at our own firesides, wearing a chain much more galling than that of our fathers, when with their hearts up to heaven, and their swords in their hands they resolved to die, or be free.

It has always appeared to us equally incongruous and unchristian to assemble together to hear our Declaration of Independence read, while we at that very moment are holding men in slavery – and men whose blood is the same with that in our own veins.

See two men at the same door – of the same blood – of the same Creator – one mounts his horse, rides off to celebrate his independence, pouring forth the best feelings of his heart for his liberty – the other, perhaps at that very moment a chain sinking in his flesh, goes off to his hard work of bondage, pouring forth the direst execrations of his heart against the man who constantly deprives him of his liberty.

Those scriptures connected with the text teach slave holding nations one of the most awful lessons, ever taught by the God of nations. Where see one of the greatest nations then in the world holding in cruel bondage, a people who by the Providence of God were thrown into their country. Egypt had grown wealthy – lustful, and infidel, on the sweat and blood of the Hebrews. Such is the effect on the masters. And the effect on the slaves was to make them ignorant of God so that they began to cease to answer the great end of their creation. Hence that just and righteous demand from heaven, Let them go that they may serve me.

That criminal ignorance of God was the effect of their “bondage” is abundantly taught in their future history, by their worshipping the ox or golden calf, which idolatry they had learned in Egypt it being part of the worship of the country; for almost every great city in Egypt at that time had its Apis 1 or ox as an object of religious worship.

But to a people not gearing God, this was a reason of no weight – they refused to let the people go.

Nay from first to last, whenever there was any conversation on the subject of their emancipation, or plans forming it, the Egyptians immediately increased their bondage; entering into counter-plans to crush them: “Come” say they “let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply and it come to pass, that when there falleth out any war, they join our enemies, and fight against us and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them task-masters to afflict them with their burdens – and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage in mortar – in brick, and in all manner of hard service in the field. But the more they afflicted the more they grew – and this grieved the Egyptians [Exodus 1:10-12].

Then they had recourse to another stratagem; and an awful one it was. – It was this. To cut off the increase of population by destroying the male children – so brake the arm of their power and holding safe bondage forever what salves they already had. 2

This seemed to put the climax upon the oppression of the oppressor. – It was a plan for an eternal servitude. Now they seem to have lost all sight of their slaves as human beings. – But at this awful crisis the groans of the bondman penetrated the abode of Him who has commanded, “be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth.” God heard – God raised them up a deliverer. It was Moses. About this time he was born. His birth, preservation, and education was altogether of God.

And when we see him, who was to the future liberator of his countrymen, lying a helpless and hopeless infant, amid the rushes and alligators of the Nile; who will dare to say that he was not raised up as their deliverer?

And who else of all the men of the earth ever had disinterestedness enough, to refuse a crown and kingdom, and identify himself with his countrymen to die, or to be free?

For when he came to years he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter [Hebrews 11:24], refusing the crown of Egypt. 3 Quitted the place for the fields where his countrymen were in chains – and seeing one of them cruelly scourged or “smitten” by an overseer, his indignation was kindled he instantly interfered – and in the scuffle he killed the Egyptian. This coming to Pharaoh’s ears he sought to slay Moses, but he fled the country. Fain would the patriotic arm of Moses have sundered the chains of his countrymen – But Egypt’s cup was not yet full O Egypt! Unhappy Egypt! Forty years more ingredients are to be poured into the cup of thy misty! And this patriot – this man of God – though raised at the court educated for the throne, and of great power in Egypt was hunted 4 from the dominions of slavery.

Such their determination to hold their slaves. Full well they knew their slaves were their wealth. Yea, the monuments of the arts, were all extracted out of the very sweat, blood, bones, and sinews of the Hebrew slaves. – ’Tis well known that some of their finest cities 5 were built by the Israelites – to what other end could they have appropriated such an immense quantity of brick as their slaves made?

And after forty years of instruction by God, for a work so difficult and so arduous, Moses was sent back with the commission in our text.

We call it a work difficult and arduous, for scarcely ever has a long standing system of slavery been broken up without scenes of blood and carnage.

A great increase of power over others never yet has made men humane and benevolent; but generally leads to cruelty and oppression. David and Solomon both speak of this fact as notorious in the history of men – And with the exception of Washington and Bolivar perhaps there is not another instance on record, where such great power was laid down peaceably at the feet of the people. And every attempt to arrest out of the hands of men, ill-gotten and overgrown power, from whatever source it comes, even from God himself, only makes the oppression of the oppressor greater.

This is painfully verified in the present case – for when God sent back Moses to Egypt with that most reasonable command, “Let my son go, that he may serve me,” what was the effect? Who is the Lord said Pharaoh, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, neither will I let Israel go [Exodus 5:2].

Here is the core of the contest, God will rule – God must rule, and this impious oppressor would not submit to it. I know not God, says he, neither will I let the people go. Wherefore do you, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works, GET YE TO YOUR BURDENS, and the same day he commanded the task-masters saying ye shall no more give the people straw as heretofore; let them go and gather straw for themselves; and the tale (or number) of the bricks which they did make heretofore ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof [Exodus 5: 4-8] And when they could not make the same number of bricks per day, because they had to hunt the stubble throughout the country, and carry it great distance, they were unmercifully beaten.

“Let my son go that he may worship me.” Was this an unreasonable demand? The God of mercy had seen their cruel oppression. They were his creatures. – He had a right to demand their release – but did they let them go? No – and did God execute His threat? Yes; and to this very day, which is about forty hundred years, that nation has never recovered from that stroke. 6

And now what imagination can possibly describe the heart-rending effects of that stroke upon the land of Egypt, which those slave masters provoked from the Almighty. To make the scene more terrific it was at midnight. Behold says the sacred historian “it came to pass that at midnight the Lord smote all of the first born in the land of Egypt, from the first porn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne, unto the first born of cattle – and there was a great cry in Egypt – such as there was none like it; nor shall be like it any more, for there was not a house wherein there was not one dead. Thus he broke the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham.” [Exodus 12:29-30 & Psalm 78:51]

And is this the effect of slavery, upon slave-holders when persisted in against reason and revelation? Moses had reasoned with them – and of revelation they could not have been entirely ignorant. Joseph, that eminent saint, having lived so long among them – and if they had, God had revealed his own arm before their eyes in the plagues that threatened their destruction. But they would not be taught. And alas this was but the beginning of their sorrows. – The finishing stroke – the death of Egypt, was at the Red Sea –there was buried all the strength and flower of the nation – and their wealth and their wrath were together engulfed in the waves – and there tale of woe, the funeral of the nation, is talked of on those shores till this very day.

Six hundred chosen chariots and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them, and an immense cavalry, all sunk to rise no more [Exodus 14:7]. – Yes says the sacred historian, there remained not so much as one of them [Exodus 14:28].

And it would seem that to this very day she has never risen from that stroke. “About this time the Egyptian historians place an invasion of their country by swarms of Phoenician shepherds. But who these shepherds were, whether Amalekites, that fled from Chedorlamoer, or Canaanites, who fled from Joshua, or Arabs, we cannot possibly determine.” – Brown’s Dict. Bib.

Soon after that it was prophesied that the “pomp of her strength should cease in her – that she should become a base kingdom – yea the basest of the kingdoms – that she herself should go into captivity, and there should be no more a prince of the land of Egypt – and that many of her cities should suffer extremely and groan.” 7

And from within a few years after this prophecy was delivered until now. Egypt has been groaning, being governed by foreigners and tributary to other nations.

And what is she this monument but a nation groaning under most severe degradation and misery. 8

She was long the most renowned kingdom in the world; but having first, grievously oppressed the people of God – then seduced them – then deceived them – this blasting decree of heaven went forth against her, “and the pomp of her strength has ceased.” She was conquered and subdued successively by the Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Saracens, Mamelukes, and lastly the Turks, to whom she remains in the most abject servitude to this day. Thus for more than 20 centuries they have been a base and tributary kingdom; and during all those ages they have not been permitted to live under princes of their own race. On one occasion God sold all Egypt to a foreign prince for performing a piece of service to Him. 9

It would indeed be interesting to know, if the pages of history could be accurately turned over and read, whether some of the posterity of those very kings that oppressed the Hebrews, were not now living in the most debasing slavery.

Now Brethren, if there be anything in North America similar to the bondage of Egypt; ought not this country to learn a lesson from their destruction. And though that bondage may not exactly coincide with the slavery among us, yet is there not a coincidence enough to teach us to fear that this country will one day suffer if we do not repent of our cruelty in African slavery.

And I appeal to every citizen if this is not the public sentiment; both as it regards, the most Godly men among us, and the wisest statesmen, viz. that America must suffer; if something is not done and that speedily too, to release from the most cruel bondage, more than a MILLION 10 AND A HALF OF IMMORTAL BEINGS, whom she holds in chains, and that both soul and body, that they cannot serve God.

With the increasing growth of Christianity among us, it is impossible that slavery can exist. Christianity and slavery cannot be identified. For truly if we measure slavery by the enormity of its crimes and sufferings; it is the greatest practical evil that ever afflicted the human race.

Yes Says Mr. Jefferson, “The love of justice and the love of country plead equally the cause of this people, and it is a mortal reproach to us that they should have pleaded it so long in vain. The hour of emancipation, (says he,) is advancing in the march of time; it will come, whether brought on by the generous energy of our own minds, or by the bloody process of St. Domingo.”

We would now then say to every slave holder in the United States, in the language of the Almighty to the slaveholders of Egypt. “Let go my son, that he may serve me; and if thou refuse to let him go, behold I will slay thy son.”

Now, if it be true that slavery prevents any people from answering the great end of their creation, i.e. to serve God – and if it be true that God has made all the nations of the earth for that service – and no man will deny either – then He is in justice, in reason, and in revelation, bound to demand the release of any people from servitude – but particularly so, when a Christian nation keeps His creatures from serving Him as they ought.

Now there are three things we would present to every slave-holder in this country.

1st That he let go his slaves, that they may receive an education and become useful citizens, and so answer the end of their creation. Knowledge is power, and if rightly used makes a good citizen – and without some considerable degree of it, a man never can be a good citizen. Ignorance begets vice. And who will deny that this power is eternally wrested out of the hands of the slave? I appeal to fact – into what schools and colleges do we send our slave children for education? Who will deny that the masters find it necessary to keep them in ignorance? And to this end, have enacted laws time after time. Educate them and they never can be held in slavery. Such is the nature and power of enlightened intellect. Who ever heard of a million of educated and enlightened men held in slavery? What page of history records it?

To retain them in slavery then, it is necessary to keep them something like brutes – the mind; the immortal mind is to receive no food; but crush it; and bury it; and the deeper it is buried the better the slave- the less he knows about the rights of man the better for the master – My God! My God! Is this the humanity of man to man?

“Man’s inhumanity to man, makes countless thousands mourn.”

It is the glory of this Christian land that such liberal provision is made for education.

“It is now nearly 200 years since school funds were established in this country, by that aboriginal and immortal hive of intelligence, piety and self government, the Plymouth Colony. And by the constitution of the United States, it is the duty of government to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. Not one of the eleven 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 were appropriated to education. Reckoning all these 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 law to enlighten the people of this country.” 11

And all of these millions spent in educating our citizens, to enable them to be good citizens, is there naught to be spent on the poor African? Must he and his posterity be doomed to eternal ignorance? Of the thousands that he helps to pour into the public treasury, must he never reap anything? Must he forever be deprived of the fruit of his own hands? And will heaven always wink at this? O heaven! Righteous Heaven; remember injured Africa!!!

How, then, are they to become good citizens? – Deprived of everything necessary to make them such shut out by Christians from all knowledge – all information – all mental food – doomed forever to a dwarfish growth in the great forest of mankind, and good for nothing but to curse and impoverish the earth.

Look at the natural soil 12 where they live, and see how it is cursed and impoverished under their very feet.

“Besides more than half a million educated at our schools, there are more than 3000 graduates annually matriculated at our colleges and universities – not less than 1200 at the medical schools – several hundred at the theological schools – and at least 1000 students of law.” 13

Now, all of these colleges, theological and medical, which of them ever opens their doors to the sons of the African? Heaven has given him talents to be a good citizen – yea even a statesman – but the white man has deprived him of this privilege. Then let my son go, says God, that he may serve me as a good citizen of the earth. And if thou refuse, behold I will slay thy son.

2. Let him go forth from that felness of despair in servitude, which calls forth all the hellish and murderous passions of the heart, and makes a many a very fiend on earth.

There is a period in slavery that may be called the very felness of despair; when the poor suffer, long galled prefers death to these chains; then in the paroxysm of his rage nothing is too hellish for him to plot and to perpetrate. One vast and indiscriminate massacre of men, women and children is plotted, and sometimes effected too – witness St. Domingo. 14 Now this is a degree of exterminating hellishness that is enormous. No man can read the bloody horrors of St. Domingo without asking himself what could excite such fury in a being, made in the image of God. The answer is, provocation and oppression – iron handed oppression. And ‘tis the insanity of despair, ruthless as hell against its oppressors. Then let every slave master let his slaves go, that they may fear God and regard the lives of their fellow men; and not be provoked to act out this fiend like temper.

3. Let them go, that they may acquire a religious education to serve God. Who will deny that the slaves in this country are kept in such ignorance 15 that they cannot intelligibly worship God – that there are exceptions, masters who allow them to be, or have them religiously taught is freely admitted. But is this the case generally? Are they instructed in Christianity as the whites are? No man will affirm this. Slavery, 16 as a system, knows nothing of religious education. Her voice is this, Who is the Lord that we should serve him? Nay, it not only degrades and depresses the mind, but restrains the expansion of the faculties, and stifles almost every effort of genius; so that after ages of oppression, slaves seem almost as a race of beings endued with capacities inferior to the rest of mankind.

This is an item in slavery which we believe of all others is connected with the deepest curse, and that both to master and slave: viz. that it operates in keeping so many immortal beings from all the practices of Christianity, by which they are to prepare for eternity.

If then they are held fast in a situation, in which they cannot serve God as they ought, His demand for their release is a most reasonable one, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” And although they are not God’s son exactly in the sense that Israel was, nor their slavery exactly the same, yet they are God’s rational creatures – He made them – and they are bound to serve him according to the best of their powers – and woe, woe, to the man or the nation that interposes between an immortal soul and its service to its Creator!! Let such remember Egypt and the Red Sea!!

And now Brethren, all the objections that can be possibly brought against universal emancipation, I answer by that single precept of Christ, Matt vii 12. All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. This is a summary of all Christian duty towards our fellow men. And not now only, but Christ declares it was so from the beginning. This is the law and the prophets, says he, i.e. the substance of christen duty towards our fellow men as taught in the law and the prophets – but the law and the prophets make up the whole bible down to that time; therefore the bible down to the days of Christ did not authorize slavery; and no man will dare to say that the New Testament authorizes it; consequently by induction, revelation nowhere authorizes slavery. But expressly forbids it; commanding in the most positive manner that the man stealer shall be put to death.

Now if it be wrong to steal a slave, it is then wrong to hold a stole slave. This is a principle recognized both by the laws of God and man, viz. that he who receives and holds the stolen goods, if he knows them to be stolen, is as party concerned with the thief. It is in a degree identifying our interest with his, and taking part of his crime upon us. “When thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst with him.” [Psalm 50:18] Our consenting to the thing is what connects us with him in his guilt. Then to hold a stolen man in slavery is substantially the same crime as to steal him. For if it was wrong to deprive him of his liberty in the first instance, it is equally wrong to deprive him of it in the second.

The slavery we speak of, and of which we have been speaking all along, is the third of three kinds – 1st. A person may become a slave by their own consent for a time. 2nd May be made so by the government, as a punishment for crime. 3rd. Made a slave by force, and held so forever through all their posterity.

This third and last is the kind of which we have been speaking, which Revelation never did authorize and reason cannot.

In favor of slavery there is plausible argument, the deceitfulness of which is not immediately seen. Permit us to analyze it a moment. The argument is this, viz. That the African slave is in a more eligible state 17 in this country, enjoying the Christian religion, that he would be were he a free heathen in his native country 18 i.e. It is better to go out of his chains in this country to heaven, than to go out of his native country, a free heathen into hell.

The answer is this. When such a thing occurs, it is God; of his overruling Providence; and not of the master or slave. Was this the motive of the man stealer when he stole the slave in heathen Africa? Was it motive to teach him the Christian religion? Or was it the motive of the American master when he chased him of the slaver? None will affirm either. Then the question needs no answer. The motives of the heart, make the actions right or wrong. But the motives in this case have been wrong all the way from first to last. To look into the hold of a slave ship on the coast of Africa, where his slaves are crammed together that about one fourth die 19 ere they reach this country, we would have a poor opinion of the piety of the slaver’s motives.

And even if men went to Africa to steal or purchase slaves, with honest motives of Christianizing them, still the action would be unjustifiable. For if it were justifiable, then we ought to authorize all our missionaries to steal or purchase all the heathen youth they could, and ship them to Christian countries, and there sell them in eternal slavery to be Christianized.

But what says God on this mode of Christianizing the heathen? Exod. xxi. 15. He that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be bound in his hand, shall surely be put to death. There shall be no contravening of this my command: he shall surely be put to death. 1Tim. i. 10 The law was not made for a righteous man, but for men-stealers, &c.

And if the apostle Paul had justified this horrid traffic as some think he did, why would he have called the slavers man-stealers? Branding them with and epithet so universally hated.

And by this mode of reasoning the slave master might justify even Judas in selling the Savior for money, for the world was vastly the better by His death. But what was Judas’s motive? Was it to better the world, or to get money?

No man will act wrong to his fellow men if he correctly follow his precept of Christ – “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” [Matthew 7:12]

And we fearlessly affirm that no Christian with this precept in his heart can justify forced slavery for it is grounded upon that great commandment, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” We must do that to our neighbor which we ourselves acknowledge to be fit and reasonable. The appeal is made to our own judgment and feelings, we being in his place and he in ours; then, asking ourselves what we would wish him to do toward us – thus let every man reason on the subject of slavery – standing in the shoes of the slave and the slave in his, let him ask himself how he would wish to be treated.

And in all the difficulties connected with an universal and immediate emancipation. I do beseech and implore that every master would bring his mind to those scriptures given to him by his Maker, to guide him in his duty towards his neighbor – “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself – and all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them”

To Greece and Rome in their slave holding days, this precept of Christ was not a guide, as it is now to us therefore the cases are not analogous. And let no man then justify himself by the conduct of those pagan nations.

And now whatever objections lie in the way of immediate and universal emancipation, none of these lie in the way of aiding the American Colonization Society, to which we now invite your aid. The plan of this society is to send to Africa all the free people of color willing to go, and as many of the slaves as their masters give freedom to as fast as their funds will permit.

The colony at Mensurado, on the West coast of Africa is a prosperous state, ‘gradually lengthening her cords, and strengthening her stakes.’ And with the blessings of God promises the most extensive usefulness to that country.

Then let everyone that is a friend to God and the rights of man, come forward and aid this society, as far as their circumstances will permit.

We have as yet seen no solid objections to this plan. To us it seems the most Christian and feasible of any plan yet proposed.

If the government should take hold of this plan, and we do not despair to see the day when they will take hold of it, they are certain competent to remove slavery, this awful curse, entirely from among us. That it is unconstitutional 20 for the government to take hold of it, we do not believe is the real objection why they do not- and why they have hitherto rejected all petitions, praying them to take it under their care. As for our part, we cannot conceive how this country could make a greater reparation to Africa for the wrongs done her. Would this government give a Christian education to her slaves, which she is abound to d, and then return them to their native country, what greater favor under heaven could they possibly confer on Africa? It would be 60,000,000 of souls, sunk in the most cruel heathenism, with the most efficient missionaries.

Yes, every cargo, of Christianly educated Africans, you enable this society to return home, will be a cargo of balm to bleeding Africa.

And when this colony shall have ripened into Christian manhood, and shall have once stricken hands in a Christian covenant with the English colony at Sierra Leone, 21 both having come to full maturity, they will most assuredly put a stop to “man-stealing,” by hanging every slaver and kidnapper within their reach!

Yes, they will more effectually than all the governments of the earth, bind up those wounds all along that coast of Africa, which for centuries have been draining away her heart’s blood.

The death of General Harper was a sore stroke to this society. His heart was in the thing. And had he lived he would doubtless have accomplished what we deem of vast importance, viz. his plan of connecting schools with the society and instructing the Africans in husbandry, mechanic arts, and the various branches of a common education before they are returned home.

But He who called away Finley, Mills, and Caldwell, so active in originating this society, can raise it up other friends. It is saying much for this society that such men as Finley and Mills were connected with its origin. And I would place more confidence in their prayers alone that the thing of God, than in all the arguments hitherto advance to show the contrary. And we are happy to be able to state to you that this society is growing in the public estimation. And particularly in the Southern States, where it is largely patronized by some of the most enlightened statesmen and sincere Christians. And until some better plan is proposed it does appear to us that every well wisher of his country ought to lend it his aid.

It ought to be remembered that the first settlement of this country was by Christian men – and on Christian principles – flying from slavery, the slavery of the mind. And we have grown up into a government the most Christian in the earth. Founded upon Christianity, this government for nearly half a century, has been growing, consolidating and extending, the wonder of the world.

But slavery is the worm at the root of our gourd. All consider it as the curse of this government.

We hold it as a principle, that this government will flourish or wither, live or die, just as we cultivate or reject vital Godliness. “The nation that will not serve God shall perish: and that slavery is antichristian and not the service of God, no man can doubt believing his bible. Then let every American friendly to the life and health of his country, feel himself bound to aid this society, unless aiding some other plan he conscientiously deems better.

When Greece whose sons we had never enslaved, called on us for aid, who refused to contribute, or rather who did not rejoice to contribute? And shall we hold back from Africa, when this society would send home her sons, whom we have stolen away?

And as to the disasters that have befallen this colony, what are they, more than have befallen other colonies in their infancy? Not one half that befell the first colonist in colonizing our own country. 22

Who does not know that there have been colonies planted all along the coast, from Cape Verde to the Cape of Good Hope, and that for years too by the English, French, Danes, Dutch, and Portuguese?

And can they accomplish, and many of them in quest of money too, what Americans seeking the good of souls cannot? Did the British colony at Sierra Leone originate as ours has done? Was not the land originally purchased of the native to colonize free colored people? Has not that colony succeeded triumphantly, and why cannot ours?

And as to the unhealthiness of the climate, no proof yet has been exhibited that it is more so than other tropical climates – than even some of the alluvial districts of the United States. 23

And if that colony even should not drain away slavery entirely from us, it may establish a seed there, which fostered by God, will not cease to grow till all that country is evangelized. This idea alone 24 ought to enlist every Christian in its cause. To evangelize a country, no missionaries are equal to native missionaries.

To raise the coloured people 25 to their proper rank of citizenship among us, is impossible – neither is it desireable. Who would wish to see them in our legislative halls, making us laws? Let us then send them to Africa – their native land – their own land – a land seemed to be given them by God, their constitutions suiting the climate. And there let us colonize, and nourish and protect them till they can stand alone – and there let them enjoy the rights and immunities of freemen, and have a name among the nations of the earth. There “they will have a stake in the hedge,” and a soil to cultivate which is their own.

There let them sit in their own legislative assemblies – and make their own laws – tread their own college halls, and nurture their own sons to be ministers and statesmen. – And let us never despair to see the day when Africa shall have her halls of literature and legislation, equal to America or to Europe.

APPENDIX.Many persons think, because Christian governments have enacted so many severe laws against slavery it must be nearly extinct; or at least its horrors in practice greatly abated.

A few extracts from the last Report of the African Society on the Suppression of Slavery, held in London on May 13th 1825, will give us a succinct view of the state of the slave trade and what the Christian nations are doing to suppress it.

“His royal highness, the Duke of Gloucester, was in the chair. The Secretary read the report of the society on the state of the Slave Trade in general, and the measures taken for its suppression. By our own laws all dealings in the trade are now considered as piracy. A treaty to the same effect was made by this country with Sweden.”

It is well known that slavery, by the U. States government, is considered piracy: and the following resolution was offered by C.F Mercer to Congress on the 28th of Feb. 1824, with a view to have it considered as piracy all over the civilized world.

Resolved –“That the President of the United States be required to enter upon, and prosecute from time to time, such negociations with the several maritime powers of Europe and America, as he may deem expedient for the effectual abolition of the African Slave Trade and its ultimate denunciation, as piracy under the law of nations, by the consent of the whole civilized world.”

The main question, on agreeing to this resolution, was taken by yeas and nays – yeas 131, – nays 9.

The government of South America has passed enactments, sentencing to ten years imprisonment, all persons, whether national or foreign who may be detected within their dominions engaged in the Slave Trade.

The Report above mentioned goes on the state that Spain and the Netherlands have agreed, in part, to its suppression so for as to give other nations the right of searching suspected vessels.”

And it speaks in terms of the most unqualified reprobation of the conduct of France. It states that she is now the great Slave Carrier of the world. That the arrival of her flag on the coast of Africa is the signal of universal devastation – that the hamlets of the weaker are instantly attacked and the inhabitants sold into slavery – that a powerful African chief purchased goods on trust from a French merchant, for which he was to pay with young slaves. At the appointed time of payment he had not the slaves, and in consequence his warriors made an attack upon a peace able and agricultural village, and in one hour exterminated in the inhabitants: the old people and infants were murdered and destroyed: and the young and vigorous all taken captive and carried off to pay the Frenchman.

Two companies have been voluntarily formed by the pious and humane in England called “The Tropical Free Labour Companies.” Their object is to encourage the cultivation of sugar and cotton in the East Indies, particularly sugar, and bring them to the English market, and undersell slave grown similar products bought from the slave countries, and thus gradually the effect of the extinction of slavery in the British Colonies. One of these companies has a capital of 4,000,000 sterling, with the Duke of Gloucester at the head of it.

They say they “contemplate no measure for their ultimate object more certain in its operation, than the general substitution of sugar grown by free labour for that which is grown by slaves.”

The following extract may show what Christians could do independent of legislative enactments, if all Christians and the humane would unite. By an effort in England alone they have, in a most surprising manner, arrested the current of trade in certain articles – taken it out of the hands of the Slave Master and put it into the hands of Free labourers. “Forty years ago little or no indigo was exported from British India. The whole of that article then used in Europe, was the product of Slave labour. A few individuals in Bengal employed their capital and influence in inciting the natives to enlarge the cultivation of it for the European market. They did so, and when free labour was brought properly into action, notwithstanding the enormous freights for a time the importers had to pay, the indigo of India has been gradually displacing from the market the indigo grown by slaves, so that now there is not one ounce of Indigo the produce of Slave labour imported into Europe: while the value of the Indigo grown in British India, grown by free labour, amounts to nearly 4,000,000 sterling.”

This is the substance of what the Christian nations of the world are doing to suppress the traffic of human souls.

And yet some of these very nations connive at its being carried on in the most cruel manner under their own flag. – The Report states that eight villages were lately desolated (in the manner described above, getting slaves for the Frenchman) for the purpose of carrying on the trade with Spain. And a countless number of murders were committed in consequence of the trade in muskets, powder, and rum, carried on with the Portuguese.

And that two Brazillian vessels were recently taken by a British frigate and when taken, “the unfortunate slaves were allowed a space of three feet square and a quarter a man, and were guarded by fierce dogs of the blood hound species. In one ship fifty of the negroes died during a short voyage. The captain of another had shipped more than he conveniently could carry, and threw the surplus 26 overboard.

And slave dealers to evade the law, lately have gotten to use fictitious names when speaking of the slaves. For instance, a gentleman giving an account of the state of the slave market; says, “the advantages which our market offers for the disposal of ebony, (i.e. negroes), gives a great preference over any other of our colonies. – The last cargo sold here was the Harriet of Nantz; 328 logs (i.e. slaves) were disposed of on their landing those were damaged excepted at $225 each, had the wood been good it would have had fine sale, but the cargo was bad, having suffered much in coming over.”

One or two extracts from the Reverend Richard Bickell’s “West indies as they are; a re4al Picture of Slavery,” will show whether the cruelties of slavery are abating.

Mr. Bickell speaks of West India slavery as whitnessed by him, and as it exists there now: having lived there about five years. “In the colonies of Great Britain there are at this moment upwards of 800,000 human beins in a state of degrading personal slavery. – One of the great evils of slavery is, that the slaves are so degraded and epressed in the eye of the law as not to be considered persons, but mere animals or chattels; so that they may not only be sold at the will of the master; but seized for debt by a writ of execution and sold at public auction to the highest bidder.

The distress and terror among a gang of negroes, when the Marshal’s deputy with his dogs and other assistants comes to levy upon them for the master’s debt, cannot be conceived by those who have not witnessed it. – I was once on a coffee-mountain spending a few days, and the night after I arrived I was awakened about an hour before daylight, by a great noise, as of arms and the cries of women and children. – In a few minutes a private servant came and informed me that it was the marshal’s deputies making a levy on the negroes. – I got up and went out; before I arrived at the negro-houses, the resistance ceased – ten or twelve men, many women and children, amounting to thirty or forty were taken and presented such a heart-rending scene as I never witnessed before. – Some of the children had lost their mothers – some mothers torn from their children. – One woman in particular had two or three of her children taken together with her infant – she wept aloud and bitterly for her infant, saying she must giver herself up if the child was not got back, for she could not live, separated from it. They were hand cuffed and driven off to Spanish Town a distance of about 20 miles.”

“In a season of a crop, which lasts 4 or 5 months in the year, their labour is protracted not only throughout the day, as at other times, but during either half of th night, or the whole of every alternate night.

”Besides being made to work under the lash all the week, they are obliged to labour for their own maintenance on the Sabbath.”

“It is certainly a most degrading sight to see one fellow creature following 20, 30m or 40 others, and every now and then lashing them as he would a team of horses or mules, but this is not all, for if any one offend more than ordinarily, the master driver, who has almost unlimited power, takes him or her from the ranks and having two or three strong negroes to hold the culprit down – lays on 20 or 30 lashes with all his might – 39* is the number specified by law, beyond which they cannot legally go in one day.”

Surely this does not look as if the cruelties of slavery were abating – Oh, slavery in thy best state, thou art a bitter draught – but it affords a ray of hope at least, that mors sceptra ligonibus aequat – Death mingles scepters with spades – the bond and the free will be equal in the grave!!

Except the Kryptia, or ambuscade, practised by the Spoartans over the Helots, I know nothing more cruel in the slavery of any age than what is practiced by some modern Christians, over their slaves. The heathen branded their slaves with a hot iron, so do the modern Christian masters. Mr. Bickell gives many instances of their being advertised in the Newspaper, in the following manner. – Philip a Creole, Sambo, man of Cartha-gena, 5ft. 5 inch marked ICD on left and LH on right shoulder.”

Since the writing of this Sermon, we have heard some strange things from the south on slavery, and that too from gentlemen in high official authority. Govern Troup in his address to the Legislature of Georgia says, “when we cease to be masters we become slaves ourselves.”

Exactly so the Pagan Spartans thought. “The freemen of Sparta, were forbidden the exercise of any mean or mechanical employment; and therefore the whole care of supplying the city with necessaries was devolved upon the Helots – the ground was tilled, and all sorts of trades managed by them. – Whilst their masters, gentlemen like, spent all their time in dancing and feasting – in their exercises – hunting matches and the λεςχαι 27 or places of conversation.” – Potter’s Archaeol. Graec.

They considered every species of handicraft as mean undignifying – and this very sentiment sowed the seeds of their destruction.

And Mr. Lumpkin, of the committee in the Georgia legislature to whom that part of the governor’s speech was committed, reported thus. “Let our Northern brethren then, if there is no peace in Union, if the compact has become too heavy to be longer borne, in the name of all the mercies, find peace among themselves. Let them continue to rejoice in their self righteousness – let them bask in their own Elysium, while they depict all south of the Potomac as hideous reverse.

“As Athens, as Sparta, as Rome was, we will be; they held slaves, we will hold them. Let them guard with tariffs their own interest – let them deepen their public debt, until an high minded aristocracy shall arise out of it.

“We want none of all these blessings. But in the simplicity of the patriarchal Government, We would still remain master and servant under our own vine, and our own fig-tree, and confide our safety upon Him who of old time, looked down upon this state of things without wrath.”

These gentlemen pride themselves in being classed with the Romans and Grecians as slave holders. We think such Christian gentlemen would do well to consider a little more thoroughly how those nations treated their slaves: and see whether it is honorable to be classed with such monsters.

It was the custom at Rome to expose their worn out or sick slaves, when no longer able to work, on an island in the Tyber: there to pine away and die. And the Emperor Claudius, though by no means a humane man, was so shocked at it that he issued an edict against it. And the same edict declares, that if anyone to avoid it “chose rather to kill than expose his slave; he should be liable to a prosecution for murder.”

And even the elder Cato, with all his boasted virtues, did by his slaves, just as a prudent farmer does by his horses. It “was his professed maxim to sell his superannuated slaves for any price, rather than maintain what he deemed an useless burden.” The following are his own words. “A master of a family should sell his old oxen – his old wagons – his old implements of husbandry – and such of his slaves as are old and infirm. And anything else that is old and useless.” What man in a Christian country would consider himself honoured by being classed with such an old pagan stock and oppressor.

What aggravates the cruelty of this man was this. That in attending all the slave markets, it is said he never purchased any but young slaves – and after he god all the fruit of their life he turned them adrift. And he never gave more for a slave than fifteen hundred drachmas, as not requiring delicate shapes and fine faces, but strength and ability to work.

“And he contrived means to raise quarrels among his slaves, always to keep them at variance with one another, ever fearing some bad consequence from their unanimity.” – Plut. In vit. Caton.

And yet he is called the virtuous Cato. We cannot envy any American his honor to be classed with such a man.

In Greece there were two kinds of servants. First, “those who through poverty were forced to serve for wages, being otherwise freeborn citizens, but by reason of their poverty, had no suffrage in public affairs.

The second sort were wholly in the power and at the disposal of their lords – “who had as good a title to them as to their land and estates, a considerable part of which they were esteemed. They were wholly at their command to be employed as they saw convenient, in the worst and most wretched drudgeries – and to be used at their discretion, pinched, staved, beaten, tormented, and that in most places without any appeal to superior power, and punished with death itself. 28

“And what most of all enhanced the misery of their condition was that they had no hopes of bettering it while they lived – and all the inheritance they could leave their children, was the possession of their parents’ miseries and a condition scarce any way better than that of beasts.”

They had a peculiar form after which they cut their hair and their clothes – for it was accounted an insupportable piece of impudence for a servant to wear his hair and his clothes like a freeman. A freeman’s coat had two sleeves, a slave’s but one. It was also attempted once in Rome to “discriminate the slaves by a peculiar habit, but it was justly apprehended that there might be some danger in acquainting them with their own numbers.” – Gib. Rom. Emp. The original is much stronger. “Quantum periculi imminiret, si servi nostril numerare nos coepissent.” How much danger would there be if our servants should begin to number us. – Seneca de Clementia. Lib. 1. Cap. 24.

They were not allowed to have the same names, as the free born citizens – “they were usually called after the names of their native countries, as Λυδος or Συρος, if born in Lydia or Syria. The most common slave names in Athens were Geta, and Davus, because their slaves were taken or capurted from among the Getes or Davi.” – Strabo.

These slaves were not colored as our Africans – but of the same color with the Greeks and Romans themselves. And many of them were men of splendid talents. This appears from the writings of some of them after they had acquired their liberty Aesop, the author of the celebrated Fables, Alcman the poet, and Epictetus the famous moralist, were all of them, once servants.

They “also branded their slaves. This was done by burning the part with a red hot iron, marked with certain letters. Then pouring ink into the furrows, that the inscription might be more conspicuous. They were usually marked in the forehead as being most visible. The design of this was, in case they would run away they might be known.” – Potter on the Civil Government of Athens.

“The Helots were so called from Helos, a town in Laconia, conquered by the Spartans, who made all the inhabitants prisoners of war, and reduced them into the condition of slaves.” – Strabo, lib. 8 Harpocrat.

We have room to describe the Κρυπτια or ambuscade, only about their treatment of their slaves. – The Κρυπτια “was an ordinance by which they had the care of the free Spartan youth, despatched privately some of the ablest of them into the country from time to time armed only with daggers, and taking a little necessary provision with them; and in the day time concealed 29 themselves in the thickets and clefts, and at night rushed out upon the Helots and murdered all they could light upon. – Sometimes the fell upon them by day at work in the field, and killed them in cold blood.” – Plut.

And Thucydides, in his history Pelopon. Bel. says, on one occasion “they selected about 2000 of such as were most distinguished for their courage, and pretended that they were going to set them at liberty, for some good services they had rendered. They were crowned by proclamation, which is a token of being set free, and led about to all the temples in token of honor. Then they suddenly disappeared, and no man, either then or since, could tell how they came to their death.”

Many a slave has come to a secret and unseen death. Yet not unseen as to God. I think the inference is irresistible that those 2000 stout, robust Helots were surely murdered, because their masters feared they would rise up – and perhaps join their enemies in war.

The same fears drove the Egyptians to similar excesses in cruelty toward the Hebrew slaves.

The treatment of the Spartans towards the Helots was cruel beyond what almost any other heathen nation practiced towards their slaves. They were obliged to wear dog’s skin bonnets, and sheep skin vests. And once a day they received a certain number of stripes, merely lest they should forget that they were slaves. And to crown all they were constantly liable to the cryptia, whenever the peace officers thought the good of the state required it, or if they suspected them of plotting or planning about their liberties.

Aristotle says, that the Ephori, 30 as soon as elected into their office, declared war against the Helots, that they might be massacred (if the state required it) under a pretense of law.

It was the case not only in Greece, but in Rome and in all countries where forced slavery has existed, that slaves were constantly and cruelly oppressed merely through fear that they would rise up against the government and effect their own liberties.

Gibbon, in his Roman Empire, speaking of the slaves of Rome, says, “they consisted for the most part of barbarian captives, taken in thousands by the chance of war, and purchased at a vile price. 31 And having before been accustomed to a life of independence, they were always impatient to break their fetters and revenge themselves on their oppressors. Against such internal enemies, whose desperate insurrections had more than once reduced the public to the brink of destruction, the most severe regulations and the most cruel treatment seemed almost justified by the great law of self preservation. After a time, under the edicts of the emperors Adrian and the Antonies, projection of the laws was extended to the most abject part of mankind. The jurisdiction of life and death over the slaves, a power long exercised and often abused, was taken out of private hands and reserved to the magistrates alone. The subterraneous prisons were abolished, &c.

Gibbon says that the slaves in the Roman Empire, who were “valued as property,” were numerous beyond description. Phny, in his Nat. Hist. lib. 83. And Athenaeus in his Deipnosophist, lib. 6. p. 272. Particularly the latter, boldly asserts that he knew very many (παμπολλοι) Romans, who possessed 10 and even 20,000 slaves.

He also asserts that Rome had under her government at that time 120,000,000 of souls, forming “the numerous society that has never been united under the same system of government.” – Now what shall we think, when he asserts, that the number of slaves were at least equal in number to the free inhabitants of the Roman world! And if we have understood him right, his inference is that there must have been at least 20,000,000 of slaves in Rome.

Slavery most likely had its origin from the ruthless spirit of war. Justinian says the right of making slaves is esteemed a right of nations, and follows by jure gentium, as a natural consequence of captivity in war. “Jure gentium servi nostril sunt, qui ab hostibus capiuntur.” – Justinian, lib. i. 5.

This is the first origin of the right of slavery, as assigned by Justinian. Inst. 1, 3. 4. Whence slaves were called by the latins, mancipia, quasi manu capti.

And not uynlikely that Nimrod was among the first, who established the barbarous custom of transforming captives in war into slaves.

“Proud Nimrod first the bloody chace began,
“A mighty hunter, and his prey was man.”

As far back before the Christian era as we have been able to go through history, we find three kinds of servitude p0ractised. First. From poverty, whereby men being unable to subsist of themselves, and perhaps deeply in debt, were forced to part with their freedom, and yield themselves servants to such as were willing to maintain them, or sell their bodies to pay in service what they could not do in money. Secondly, vast numbers were reduced to slavery, being captured in war – this barbarous custom seems to have prevailed, till done away by the Christian Religion. Thirdly, by the sheer hellishness of those who traded in slaves – stealing them from weak and ignorant nations – carrying them a distance and then selling them. The Scriptures early recognize this kind of villainy. Aristophanes says the Thessalians were notorious for it. And this accounts for the fact of the apostle Paul’s writing against man-stealers, in his letters to the churches in that quarter. – Timothy had labored a great deal with Paul among the Thessalians.

I trust the day is not far off, when this abominable traffic, by the united exertions of Christian nations will be declared piracy throughout the world. – The thing that above all others surprises me is, that England and America, two nations where Christianity is so far and so gloriously advanced should have kept such a fearful number of immortal beings in slavery so long – America more than a million and a half, and England 800,000 near a million, in her colonies.



1. At Heliopolis they had an ox consecrated to the sun and called it i.e. the ox, Mnevis – at Memphis they maintained another, named Apis, dedicated to the moon, &c.

2. They were not afraid of female slaves however numerous. But Josephus assigns another reason for their putting the male children to death, viz. – “One of their scribes or magi (to whose judgment the people in general paid a most implicit deference) informing the king that about an Hebrew male child would be born, who should humble the power of the Egyptians and Egyptians and exalt that of the Israelites, to so great a degree as to acquire immortal honor; Pharaoh alarmed instantly issued his royal edict, that all male children, henceforward born to the Israelites, should be immediately cast into the river and drowned; and annexed the penalty of death to the whole family, that would dare to evade the edict. He adds also that the calamity of the Hebrews, on this occasion, was great beyond description: not only as it subjected them to the loss of their children and in some degree rendered them accessary to their death, but as it must eventually have tended to the extinction of their race.” Ant. Jud. Lib. 2nd.

3. Josephus says, “in his childhood Moses gave proofs of knowledge far superior to his years, and so eminent were his mental abilities, and personal attractions, that he was the admiration of all who beheld him. And that Thermutis, Pharaoh’s daughter, having no issue, adopted him as her heir, and presented him to the king her father with this address, ‘I have trained up an infant, as singular for his genius, as the symmetry of his person; and having miraculously received him from the river, to which he was committed, am determined to adopt him my son, and establish him as thy successor on the throne of Egypt.’ Moses was therefore educated under the immediate care of the princess. Ant. Jud. Lib. 2 chap 9.

4. The Egyptians notwithstanding the important services rendered so lately by Moses at the head of their armies in the total defeat of the Ethiopian enemies, could not suppress the envy and hatred they had already imbibed.
And fearful that he would assume to great a power to the injury of their country, and aggrandizement of his own people, prosecuted a design of encompassing his death. And to this end accused him of murder before the king.
Moses apprized of their design withdrew from the army, and to elude the soldiers posted in the road to intercept him, directed his flight through the deserts and encountered the greatest difficulties – till he arrived at the city of the Midianites.” Joseph. Ant. Jud. Lib. 2

5. Exod. i. 11, and they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Ramses. The Septuagint adds ϰαι Ων ἡ εςτιν Ἡλιουπολις, and On, which is Heliopolis, i.e. the city of the sun.
Josephus says, one way by which they oppressed them was “by making them cut trenches to carry off the river Nile in small streams encompassing the city with walls, raising fortifications and banks to prevent any damage that might arise from inundations. And the stupendous pyramids, monuments of Egyptian folly, which remain to this day were raised by the art and labor of our nation, which was subjected to Egyptian vassalage, for the space of 400 years.” Antiq. Lib. 3 chap 9.
Dr. Scott’s objection to the pyramids being the work of the Hebrew slaves, because they are built of hewn stone, and the Hebrews were employed in making brick, is groundless; their making brick was not their only hard bondage. It consisted also “in all manner of hard service in the field or without.” Why making brick should form so prominent and item in the narrative of their bondage, most likely is, that their work consisted pretty much in building cities. Manetho, the Egyptian historian says, The Israelites labored in stone quarries εν ταις λατομιαις, in Lapicidinis. And Pliny says, they were built by the kings of Egypt to keep the rabble or common people from being idle. Pyramidum faciendum causâ Regibus Egypti, nè plebs esset otiose. Plin. 36. 12. Built by whom they may, they are certainly living monuments of the most amazing folly and oppression of the tyrants that projected them. And it is pretty certain they must have been built in a very unequal state of society: of consummate oppression on one part, and cruel bondage on the other. If it be true, according to the generally received opinion, that they were designed to be sepulchers for the kings of Egypt; the annals of history don’t furnish another equal instance of the pride of selfishness.
“The height of the large pyramid is definitively ascertained to be 600 feet – length at the base 700. Its pinnacle is about 30 yards square. The French Savans once dined there, i.e. on the pinnacle. And the names of Bruce, Algernon Sidney, Volney and others are carved on the stones there. The view from the pinnacle is frightfully barren an immeasurable waste of desert; interrupted only by the narrow flat of cultivated land, which separates the deserts of Lybia and Arabia.” Sir Robert Wilson, p. 137.

6. Though Egypt on one or two occasions, before Ezekiel’s withering prophecy took hold of her, seemed to rise up to something among the nations, yet it was only momentary. She was only a more alluring bait to some envious nation, which immediately stripped her of all her glory.

7. Vide 29, 30, 31, 32. Chapters of Ezekiel. Surely no slave holding nation can read such passages as these without serious reflection – “I will water with thy blood the land wherein thou swimmest – I will make many people amazed at thee, and their kings shall be horribly afraid.”

8. If any person doubts this description of Egypt’s present stat, let him read their degradation and misery as described by protestant missionaries now traveling through it.

9. He (Nebuchadnezzar) had no wages nor his army for the service that he had served. Therefore I have given him the land of Egypt; for his labor wherewith he served. Because they wrought for me saith the Lord God. Ezek. 29. 30.

10. The last census taken by virtue of an act of Congress of March 3, 1821, gives us 1,531,436 slaves in America.

11. Ingersoll’s Oration before the Amer. Phil. Soc.

12. Slavery according to a statement made by an intelligent gentleman from that state, has reduced the price of land in Virginia to about one fourth of that in Pennsylvania. So that the slave holders there are convinced that if they would remove off the soil the entire slave population, and in the room of it introduce and industrious white population, so that the land might rise to its proper value, they would be richer without their slaves than with them.

13. Ingersoll’s Orat.

14. Not only in St. Domingo is this seen, but in almost all countries of slavery. How often had the deep plots of the slaves of Greece and Rome, all but subverted these governments? “Athenaeus reports that in Attica the slaves once seized upon the castle of Sunium, and committed ravages throughout the country – and at the same time made their second insurrection in Sicily; for in that country they frequently rebelled; but were at last reduced with great slaughter; no less than a million of them being put to death.” Athenaeus Deipn. Lib. 2
Many efforts were made says Potter, in his Archeol. Graec. To extricate themselves from their cruel oppression, to the great danger and almost utter subversion of those countries where they lived – frequently in time of war “deserting to the enemy; but if taken again, they were tied to a wheel and unmercifully tortured.”
Who is ignorant of the horrid massacres and brutal scenes committed by the slaves in Rome, under Marius. The moment the exiled Marius set his foot on the Roman soil, he proclaimed liberty to the slaves. They ran away from their masters, and joined him in droves – and with these making a large part of his army he entered Rome. “And at the least word or sign given by Marius the slaves murdered all whom he marked for destruction. And after they had murdered the masters of families, they would in the most brutal manner indulge their passions with their wives and daughters.” – Plutarch in C. Mar.
About 467 years before Christ, “there happened the greatest earthquake at Sparta that was ever heard of. The ground in many parts of Laconia was cleft in sunder. The whole city was dismantled except five houses. A great part of Lacedaemon was overthrown about 20,000 Spartans perished.”
The Helots availing themselves of this Providence, determined to murder all the survivors and obtaining their freedom. But the peace officers discovering the plot, gave the alarm. The trumpets were blown, which was the signal to arms. And all run to arms in a moment. “And this was the only thing, which at that time save Sparta. For the Helots flocked together on all sides from the fields, to dispatch such as had escaped the earthquake.” – Plut. In Cimon. vit.
Aelian says, it was the common opinion of Greece, that this very earthquake was a judgment from heaven upon the Spartans, for treating these Helots with such inhumanity. – Hist. Var. lib. 3.
For their cruelty, see ϰρυπτια, ambuscade in the appendix.
And God only knows what would have been the effect, if the plot recently formed in Charleston, South Carolina had been completely carried into effect.

15. In one of the slave states there is a law, which operates against Sabbath Schools. And some pious females were told that if they continued teaching the blacks in the Sabbath school, they would subject themselves to the penalty of the law; which was a fine, and whipping on the bare back they modestly replied, we must go on; and will pay the fine, and if any person can be found to do the whipping, we will endure it.

16. A minister of Christ related to me this fact. An old black woman came to him once in great distress of soul. He conversed with her and asked her if she never had any convictions when she was young. She said no – once she asked her master to let her go to meeting – he said she was a fool – she need not go to meeting – she had no soul – that black people had no souls – and I never believed I had a soul, said she till I heard you preach.

17. Quere. Can it be called a more eligible state if less agreeable to themselves? To deprive a human being by force of his liberty, is to deprive him of all that is near and dear to him on earth – to deprive him of that for which nothing can compensate.

18. There is an interesting history related in the Christian Advocate for July 1825, of Prince Moro, a Mahomedan from Tombuctoo, in the interior of Africa, that will remarkably illustrate this case.

19. ‘They are crowded to closely into the holds and between the decks of vessels that they have scarcely room to lie down, and not room to sit up in an erect posture: the men at the same time fastened together with irons by two and two; and all this in the most sultry climate. The consequence is, that the most dangerous and fatal diseases are soon bred among them, and vast numbers perish in the voyage. Other in dread of that slavery which is before them, and in distress and despair from the loss of their parents, children, husbands, wives, and native country, all left behind, starve themselves to death, or throw themselves into the ocean. Those refusing to eat, are tortured by live coals of fire put to their mouths.
By these means according to the common computation, 25,000 out of every 100,000 which are annually exported from Africa to America, i.e. ¼, die on the passage. Another 25,000 die in the seasoning, as it is called i.e. within two years after they arrive in America. This is owing to the scantiness and badness of their food – dejection of their spirits, being sold apart as to husbands and wives, &c. after they come here – mortification and despair – and their unaccustomedness to labor, being bred in a country spontaneously yielding the necessaries of life.’
See Dr. Jonathan Edwards’s sermon on the injustice and impolicy of the Slave Trade, preached before the Connecticut Society for the Promotion of Freedom, and for the Relief of Persons unlawfully holden in Bondage, Sept. 15, 1791, and recently republished in Boston.

20. “In regard to what is called the constitutional question whether the United States have power to establish such a colony, we know not in what it differs from the question whether they have power to put their own laws in execution or take the only efficient measures to suppress an evil, whose contagion is daily spreading, and which threatens a more serious calamity than any other to our national prosperity, if not to our political being.
It would be strange indeed, if it should be made plain to our Legislators, that the constitution stops their ears to the cries of humanity- ties their hands from the work of benevolence, and compels them to nurture the seeds and foster the growth of their own destruction. And it comes to this if they have not the power to establish a colony abroad to receive the free blacks; for we hold it to be a position, as firmly grounded as any law in nature or society, that our black population can never be drawn off, except through the medium of such an establishment; let us then denominate it a Colony or Territory, if we will, then it will not differ from our other Territories, except in being separated from the confederated states, by an ocean instead of a river or a lake.
A voyage from Washington to Mensurado can be performed as quick as to the Falls of St. Anthony or the Saut of St. Mary and much quicker than to the Mandan Villages.” – Gen. Harper.

21. The Sierra Leone Colony was started by a private company, and originated thus: ‘At the close of the American Revolution, the negroes who had run away from their masters and joined the British, were dispersed in the Bahama Islands and Nova Scotia, where the white loyalists took refuge. Some found their way to London. Four hundred of these were shipped by their own consent to Sierra Leone, in 1787, the black settlers in Nova Scotia became dissatisfied with the rigorous treatment they received and complained to the British ministry. Emigration was thought the only remedy, and 1200 accepted the invitation to be transported at the expense of the government to Sierra Leone, where they arrived 5 years after those from London.’
The Maroons from Jamaica did not arrive till 1805. – The land for the colony was obtained by purchase of the natives.
That colony now consists of more than 12,000 inhabitants. Nearly ten thousand of whom are recaptured Africans, rescued from a cruel bondage, whichever would otherwise have been entailed on them and their posterity forever. The colony is still growing in agriculture, commerce, education, and all the blessing of Christianity. Already their native missionaries are preaching the gospel to the surrounding tribes.

22. From March 25, 1584, the date of Sir Walter Raleigh’s paten, obtained from Queen Elizabeth for lands in this country, down to 1610, so multiplied were the disasters that befell the colonists, attempting to colonize this country or that part of now called Virginia, that they agreed to abandon all farther attempts, after more than 20 years waste in men and money. When at last reinforcement came to them “they found the colony, which at the time of Capt. Smith’s departure, eight months before consisted of 500 souls, now reduced to 60, and those few in so distressed a situation, that with one voice they resolved to return to England. And for its purpose on the 7th of June 1610, (16 years from their first attempt,) the whole colony repaired on board their vessels broke up the settlement, and and sailed down the river on their way to their native country. On their way down the river, they met Lord De la War, coming with another reinforcement, who persuaded them to return to James Town. From this time we date the effectual settlement of Virginia.”

23. There seems no reason to suppose Western Africa more unhealthy than other parts of the world, to which people have emigrated for centuries, and where they have built cities, established governments, and grown into empires.
On speaking of the tracts of country around Cape Monte, and Cape Mensurado Dr. Leyden says, “these districts have been described by Des Marchais, Villault, Philips, Atkins, Bosman, and smith, as pleasant salubrious and fertile.”
Cape Mensurado is a detached mountain steep and elevated towards the sea, with a gentle declivity on the land side. And no man is better acquainted with the coast of Africa probably than Sir George R. Collier, who has been the chief commander of the British squadron stationed there for three of four years. In his 2nd Report to the British Government respecting the settlements in Africa, he thus alludes to the attempt to form a Colony at Sherbro. “Had America, who excepting Great Britain appears more in earnest than any other nation, established her lately attempted settlement at Cape Mesurado, or even at Cape Monte, she would at least have secured a more healthful and by far a more convenient spot, than her late ill-chosen one in the Serbro. And an establishment by America, either at Cape Monte or Cape Mesurado, would have afforded to the friends of humanity the most rational hopes, that in the immediate neighborhood of the American Colony, the demand for slaves would have been checked, and then a settlement would have been formed useful to the purposes of civilization. And from its actual though distant intercourse with the frontiers of Gaman and Ashantee, would have opened the line of lucrative speculation to the American merchant.”
These remarks are from a person who had the best opportunities for knowing – repeatedly traversed the coast, and whose business it was to supply his government with accurate knowledge. – Gen. Harper.

24. “Let the Navies of the world be combined and line the coast of Africa from Tangier to Babelmandel, and even make it certain that not a slave shall escape; this would not be abolishing the slave trade. The spirit would still lurk in the vitals of one hundred and fifty millions of people, and continue to show itself in all the miseries of intestine wars, plunderings, misrule in government, &c. &c.” – Gen. Harper.
They must be Christianized. This and this alone will put an end to it.

25. “There is no State in the union where a negro or mulatto can ever hope to be a member of Congress, a judge or even a justice of the peace; to sit down at the same table with respectable whites, or mix freely in their society” – Gen. Harper’s Advantages of Colonization in Africa.

26. It is “remarkable that the sharks in great numbers always hover round a slave ship.” What can this be for, unless to feed upon the slaves thrown overboard. Oh what a testimony will the sea give against such inhuman monsters, in that day when she shall give up her dead for judgment! And what an item will this traffic form in that great day???

27. Λεςχαι, ὰ, λεςχηνευω. Sermocinor, confabulor. Whether these leshai were taverns or coffee houses, or what, we do not exactly know. The etymology of the word seems to say they were something of that kind.

28. In the city of Athens they were treated with rather more humanity: for if grievously oppressed they were allowed to fly for sanctuary to Theseus’s temple, whence to force them was an act of sacrilege.

29. Κρυπτια, ὰ ϰρυπτω, Tego, Occulto, i. e. lie concealed or in ambush.

30. The Edphori, were a kind of tribunes of the people five in number like the Quinqueviri, in the Republic of Carthage, annually elected, by and from among the people, and seem to have been “intended as a check upon the senate and the kings.” – Aristot. Polit. Lib. V.
Their authority though well designed at first came at length to be in a manner boundless. The unanimous voice of the college of the Ephoria could declare war – make peace – treat with foreign princes – and they had a particular jurisdiction over the poor Helots – declaring war against them the moment they entered upon their office: they could at any moment, under the appearance of law, if they thought the public good required it, cut off any number of them they pleased. And in this way alone can we account for that strange fact; that 400,000 men should be kept groaning for ages under 30,000. For such was the comparative number of slaves and citizens in Attica. – Pot. Archaeol. Graec.

31. In the camp of Lucullus, an ox sold for a drachma, and a slave for 4 drachma, or about 3 shillings. – Plut. In. Lucullus.

* Originally Posted: December 25, 2016

Sermon – Fasting – 1812

William Ellery Channing1 (1780-1842) was the grandson of one of the Newport Sons of Liberty, John Channing. William graduated from Harvard in 1798 and became regent at Harvard in 1801. He was ordained a preacher in 1802 and worked towards the 1816 establishment of the Harvard Divinity School. This sermon was preached by Channing on the national fast day proclaimed by President James Madison2 for August 20, 1812.



THE author is not insensible to the many imperfections of this discourse, and he laments that his engagements have not permitted him to render it less unworthy the favourable opinion, which was expressed by those who heard it. He has consented to publish it, because he considers it closely connected with his late Fast Sermon3, and because he wishes to express with greater precision some important sentiments, which were suggested in that discourse, but to which he was not able to give the time and attention which they deserve.


ACTS XXIV. 16.Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man.

A CONSCIENCE void of offence is an inestimable blessing. We need it in prosperity—for no condition however prosperous can give happiness, if our own hearts reproach us, if remorse mingle itself with our recollections of the past, and the dread of retribution with our anticipations of futurity. We peculiarly need it in adverse and perilous times—for it has power to impart serenity, firmness, and hope, when every outward event conspires to depress and overwhelm us. In periods of public calamity, happy is that man, whose conscience approves him, who carries with him the supporting reflection, that he has been faithful in the sphere assigned him by Providence; that he has labored, according to his power, to avert the ruin, which threatens his country; that he has not hastened or aggravated national suffering, by abusing the rights of a citizen, or violating the duties of a man and a Christian. To aid you in securing to yourselves, this support and consolation, I propose to point out to you some of the duties, which belong to the period, in which we live, particularly those duties, which grow out of our relations to our rulers and our country. My views of our political state, and of the war, in which we are engaged, I have lately unfolded, and shall not now repeat them. The question is, what conduct belongs to a good citizen, in our present trying condition.

Our condition induces me to begin, with urging on you the important duty of cherishing respect for civil government, and a spirit of obedience to the laws. I am sensible, that many whom I address consider themselves called to oppose the measures of our present rulers. Let this opposition breathe nothing of insubordination, impatience of authority, or love of change. It becomes you to remember, that government is one of the noblest and most valuable of human institutions—essential to the improvement of our nature—the spring of industry and enterprise—the shield of property and life—the refuge of the weak and oppressed. It is to the security which laws afford, that we owe the successful application of human powers—the progress of the useful and elegant arts—the splendor of the city—and the beauties of the cultivated field. Government, I know, has often been perverted by ambition and other selfish passions; but it still holds a distinguished rank among those institutions, by which man has been rescued from barbarism, and conducted through the ruder stages of society, to the habits of order, the diversified employments and dependences, the refined and softened manners, the intellectual, moral and religious improvements of the age in which we live. We are bound to respect government, as the foundation of the social edifice—the great security for social happiness; and we should carefully cherish that habit of obedience to the laws, without which the ends of government cannot be accomplished. All wanton opposition to the constituted authorities; all censures of rulers, originating in a factious, aspiring, or envious spirit; all unwillingness to submit to laws, which are directed to the welfare of the community, should be rebuked and repressed by the frown of public indignation.

It is impossible, that all the regulations of the wisest government should equally benefit every individual of the society; and sometimes the general good will demand arrangements, which will interfere with the interests of particular members, or classes of the nation. In such circumstances, the individual is bound to regard the inconveniences under which he suffers, as inseparable from a social, connected state; as the result of the condition, which God has appointed; and not as the fault of his rulers; and he should cheerfully submit, recollecting how much more he receives from the community, than he is called to resign to it. Disaffection towards a government, which is administered with a view to the general welfare, is a great crime; and such opposition, even to a bad government, as infuses into subjects a restless temper, an unwillingness to yield to wholesome and necessary restraint, deserves no better name. In proportion as a people want a conscientious regard to the laws, and are prepared to evade them by fraud, or to arrest their operation by violence; in that proportion they need and deserve an arbitrary government, strong enough to crush at a blow every symptom of opposition.

These general remarks on the duty of submission are by no means designed to teach, that rulers are never to be opposed. Because I wish to guard you against that turbulent and discontented spirit, which precipitates free communities into anarchy, and thus prepares them for chains, you will not consider me as asserting, that all opposition to government, whatever be the occasion, or whatever the form, is to be branded as a crime. Subjects have rights as well as duties. Government is instituted for one and a single end,—the benefit of the governed; the protection, peace, and welfare of society; and when it is perverted to other objects, to purposes of avarice, ambition, or party spirit, we are authorized and even bound to make such opposition, as is suited to restore it to its proper end, to render it as pure as the imperfection of our nature and state will admit.

The Scriptures have sometimes been thought to enjoin an unqualified, unlimited subjection to the “higher powers;” but if we attend, we shall see that the injunction is founded on the principle, that these powers are “ministers of God for good,” are a terror to evil doers, and an encouragement to those that do well. When a government wants this character, when it becomes an engine of oppression, the scriptures enjoin subjection no longer. Expedience may make it our duty to obey, but the government has lost its rights; it can no longer urge its claims as an ordinance of God.

There have, indeed, been times, when sovereigns have demanded subjection as an unalienable right, and when the superstition of subjects has surrounded them with a mysterious sanctity, with a majesty approaching the divine. But these days have past. Under the robe of office, we, my hearers, have learned to see a man, like ourselves; invested with dignity for the benefit of his fellows; most honourable, most worthy our reverence, when, in the spirit of the universal sovereign, he employs power to execute justice and dispense blessings; and most degraded and worthless amidst all his pomp, when he forgets that his power is a trust, and prostitutes it to selfish ends. There is no such sacredness in rulers, as forbids scrutiny into their motives, or condemnation of their conduct. If indeed elevation of rank gave elevation to the character, implicit confidence in government would be our duty. But, rulers, when they leave the common walks of life, leave none of their imperfections behind them. Power has even a tendency to corrupt—to feed an irregular ambition—to harden the heart against the claims and sufferings of mankind. Rulers have generally seemed to be raised too high for sympathy, and have often sported with human rights and happiness, for the purpose of extending, or displaying their power. Rulers are not to be viewed with a malignant jealousy; but they ought to be inspected with a watchful, undazzled eye. Their virtues and services are to be rewarded with generous praise; and their crimes, and arts, and usurpations should be exposed with a fearless sincerity, to the indignation of an injured people. We are not to be factious, and neither are we to be servile. With a sincere disposition to obey, should be united a firm purpose not to be oppressed.

So far is an existing government from being clothed with an inviolable sanctity, that subjects, in particular circumstances, acquire the right, not only of remonstrating, but of employing force for its destruction. This right accrues to subjects, when a government wantonly disregards the ends of social union; when it threatens the subversion of national liberty and happiness; when it makes encroachments which, if endured, will lead to the prostration of all the rights of a people; and when no relief but force remains to the suffering community. This however is a right which cannot be exercised with too much deliberation. Subjects should very slowly yield to the conviction, that rulers have that settled hostility to their interests, which authorizes violence. They must not indulge a spirit of complaint, and suffer their passions to pronounce on their wrongs. They must remember, that the best government will partake the imperfection of all human institutions, and that if the ends of the social compact are in any tolerable degree accomplished, they will be mad indeed to hazard the blessings they possess, for the possibility of greater good. They should weigh, not only the evils they suffer, but the evils of resistance; the tumultuous state in which an appeal to force may leave them; the danger of dissolving instead of improving society. They should anxiously inquire, if no methods, more peaceful, will bring them relief.

It becomes us to rejoice, my friends, that we live under a constitution, one great design of which is—to prevent the necessity of appealing to force—to give the people an opportunity of removing, without violence, those rulers from whom they suffer, or apprehend an invasion of rights. This is one of the principal advantages of a republic over an absolute government. In a despotism, there is no remedy for oppression but force. The subject cannot influence public affairs, but by convulsing the state. With us, rulers may be changed, without the horrors of a revolution. A republican government secures to its subjects this immense privilege, by confirming to them two most important rights; the right of suffrage, and the right of discussing with freedom the conduct of rulers. The value of these rights in affording a peaceful method of redressing public grievances cannot be expressed, and the duty of maintaining them, of never surrendering them, cannot be too strongly urged: resign either of these, and no way of escape from oppression will be left you, but civil commotion.

From the important place which these rights hold in a republican government, you should consider yourselves bound to support every citizen in the lawful exercise of them, especially when an attempt is made to wrest them from any by violent means. At the present time, it is particularly your duty to guard, with jealousy, the right of expressing with freedom your honest convictions respecting the measures of your rulers. Without this, the right of election is not worth possessing. If public abuses may not be exposed, their authors will never be driven from power. Freedom of opinion, of speech, and of the press, is our most valuable privilege—the very soul of republican institutions—the safeguard of all other rights. We may learn its value if we reflect, that there is nothing which tyrants so much dread. They anxiously fetter the press, they scatter spies through society, that the murmurs, anguish, and indignation of their oppressed subjects may be smothered in their own breasts; that no generous sentiment may be nourished by sympathy and mutual confidence. Nothing awakens and improves men so much as free communication of thoughts and feelings. Nothing can give to public sentiment that correctness, which is essential to the prosperity of a commonwealth, but the free circulation of truth, from the lips and pens of the wise and good. If such men abandon the right of free discussion—if, awed by threats, they suppress their convictions—if rulers succeed in silencing every voice, but that which approves them—if nothing reaches the people, but what will lend support to men in power—farewell to liberty. The form of a free government may remain, but the life, the soul, the substance is fled.

If these remarks be just, nothing ought to excite greater indignation and alarm, than the attempts, which have lately been made to destroy the freedom of the press. We have lived to hear the strange doctrine, that to expose the measures of rulers is treason; and we have lived to see this doctrine carried into practice. We have seen a savage populace excited and let loose on men, whose crime consisted in bearing testimony against the present war; and let loose, not merely to waste their property, but to shed their blood, to tear them from the refuge which the magistrate had afforded, to slaughter them with every circumstance of cruelty and ignominy. I do not intend to describe that night of horrors, to show to you citizens, who had fought the battles of their country, beaten to the earth, trodden under foot, mangled, dishonoured!—What ought to alarm us even more than this dreadful scene is, the disposition which has been discovered to extenuate these atrocities, to speak of this bloody outrage as a mode of punishment, irregular indeed, yet mitigated by the guilt of those who presumed to arraign their rulers. In this and in other language, there have been symptoms of a purpose, to terrify into silence those, who disapprove the calamitous war, under which we suffer; to deprive us of the only method, which is left, of obtaining a wiser and better government. The cry has been, that war is declared, and all opposition should therefore be hushed. A sentiment more unworthy of a free country can hardly be propagated. If this doctrine be admitted, rulers have only to declare war and, they are screened at once from scrutiny. At the very time when they have armies at command, when their patronage is most extended, and their power most formidable, not a word of warning, of censure, of alarm must be heard. The press, which is to expose inferior abuses, must not utter one rebuke, one indignant complaint, although our best interests, and most valuable rights are put to hazard, by an unnecessary war. Admit this doctrine, let rulers once know that by placing the country in a state of war, they place themselves beyond the only power they dread, the power of free discussion, and we may expect war without end. Our peace and all our interests require, that a different sentiment prevail. We should make our present and all future rulers feel, that there is no measure, for which they must render so solemn an account to their constituents, as for a declaration of war; that no measure will be so freely, so fully discussed; and that no administration can succeed, in persuading this people to exhaust their treasure and blood in supporting war, unless it be palpably necessary and just. In war then, as in peace, assert the freedom of speech and of the press. Cling to this, as the bulwark of all your rights and privileges.

But, my friends, I should not be faithful, were I only to call you to hold fast this freedom. I would still more earnestly exhort you not to abuse it. Its abuse may be as fatal to our country as its relinquishment. Every blessing may, by perversion, be changed into a curse, and this is peculiarly true of the press. If undirected, unrestrained by principle, the press, instead of enlightening, depraves the public mind; and, by its licentiousness, forges chains for itself and for the community. The right of free discussion is not the right of saying what we please, what our passions prompt; not the right of diffusing falsehood and evil principles.—Nothing is to be spoken or written but the truth, and truth is so to be expressed, that the bad passions of the community shall not be called forth, or at least shall not be unnecessarily excited. From what wretchedness would our country be saved, were these simple rules observed. On political subjects, there is less regard to truth, more of false colouring and exaggeration, than on any other. The influence of the press is very much diminished by its gross and frequent misrepresentations. Each party listens with distrust to the statements of the other and the consequence is, that the progress of truth is slow, and sometimes wholly obstructed. Whilst we encourage the free expression of opinion, let us unite in fixing the brand if infamy on falsehood and slander, wherever they originate; whatever be the cause they are designed to maintain.

But it is not enough that truth be told. It should be told for a good end; not to irritate but to convince; not to inflame the bad passions, but to sway the judgment and to awaken sentiments of patriotism. In this country, political discussion has decidedly an unhappy influence on the temper. Many talk and write for the simple purpose of wounding their opponents. There are, comparatively, few attempts to mollify. Those who have embraced error are confirmed, hardened in their principles, by the reproachful epithets, which are heaped upon them by their adversaries. I do not mean by this, that political discussion is to be conducted with a frigid tameness, that no sensibility is to be expressed, no indignation to be poured forth on wicked men and wicked deeds. But this I mean, that we should deliberately inquire, whether indignation be deserved, before we express it; and the object of expressing it should ever be, not to infuse ill-will, rancor, and fury into the minds of men, but to excite an enlightened and conscientious opposition to injurious measures. He who addresses his fellow citizens on political topics, should ever propose to impart correct principles, and to awaken pure and honourable feelings; and the press, when employed for other ends, is grossly perverted.

Every good man must mourn, that so much is continually spoken, written and published among us, for no other apparent end, than to gratify the malevolence of one party, by wounding the feelings of the opposite. The consequence is, that an alarming degree of irritation exists in our country. Fellow citizens burn with mutual hatred, and some are evidently ripe for outrage and violence. In this feverish state of the public mind, we are not to relinquish free discussion, but every man should feel the duty of speaking and writing with deliberation. It is the time to be firm without passion. No menace should be employed to provoke opponents—no defiance hurled—no language used which will, in any measure, justify he ferocious in appealing to force.

By this language I do not mean to suggest, that I anticipate scenes of violence and murder, such as have lately been exhibited in other parts of our land, as have made our hearts thrill with grief, indignation, and horror. I have too much confidence in the good principles and habits of this section of our country. I trust, that none of us shall live, to hear the yell of a murderous mob ringing through our city, to see our streets flowing with the blood of citizens, butchered by the hand of citizens. But, my friends, there is a violence in the passions of this community, which ought to give us some alarm; which ought to set us all on our guard, lest, by our rashness, and intemperate language, we gradually lead on to a tremendous convulsion.

The sum of my remarks is this. It is your duty to hold fast and to assert with firmness those truths and principles on which the welfare of your country seems to depend; but do this with calmness, with a love of peace, without ill will and revenge. Improve every opportunity of allaying animosities. Strive to make converts of those whom you think in error: do not address them, as if you wished to make them bitter enemies to yourselves and your cause. Discourage in decided and open language, tat rancor, malignity, and unfeeling abuse, which so often find their way into our public prints, and which only tend to increase the already alarming irritation of our country. Remember, that in proportion as a people become enslaved to their passions, they fall into the hands of the aspiring and unprincipled; and that corrupt government, which has an interest in deceiving the people, can desire nothing more favourable to their purposes, than a frenzied state of the public mind.

My friends, in this day of discord, let us cherish and breathe around us the benevolent spirit of Christianity. Let us reserve to ourselves this consolation, that we have added no fuel to the flames, no violence to the storms, which threaten to desolate our country. To Christian benevolence, let us add the higher duties of piety, a cheerful obedience and resignation to the will of our Creator. Thus living we shall not live in vain. In the most calamitous times, we shall bless those who are placed within our influence; we shall carry within us consciences void of offence; and we shall be able to look up to God, as our approving and protecting father, who, after appointing us the trials which we need, will grant us everlasting rest in heaven.

1 “Channing, William Ellery,” ed. Dumas Malone, Dictionary of American Biography (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1930), 4:4-7.
2 James Madison, Humiliation and Prayer Proclamation, August 20, 1812.
3 William Ellery Channing, A Sermon Preached in Boston July 23, 1812, the Day of the Publick Fast (Boston: Greenough & Stebbins, 1812).

Sermon – Fasting – 1810, Massachusetts

William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) was the grandson of one of the Newport Sons of Liberty, John Channing. William graduated from Harvard in 1798 and became regent at Harvard in 1801. He was ordained a preacher in 1802 and worked towards the 1816 establishment of the Harvard Divinity School. This sermon was preached by Channing on the annual Massachusetts fast day of April 5, 1810.





APRIL 5, 1810,





THIS discourse was written without any view to publication, and I send it to the press not without reluctance and hesitation. But men, whom I love and venerate, have expressed a conviction, that it is suited to excite in some degree, that sense of our national danger, and that devotion to the public good, on which the safety of our country depends. I submit to their judgment; and I shall thank God from the heart, if their expectations are in any degree fulfilled.

Some of the sentiments, here expressed, have been derived from a late publication entitled, “A Letter on the genius and dispositions of the French Government,” a production abounding in vigorous thought and elevated feeling. This work carries within itself striking marks of authenticity and truth. One can hardly read it without the impression, that the author is describing, what he himself saw. His representations agree with the accounts of France, which I have received from other publications, and from gentlemen, who have lately returned from that country. I have often heard that the partialities of this author, when he visited Europe, were on the side of France. I have heard but one sentiment respecting the letter itself, that its statements are as correct, as they are solemn and affecting.

I have been led in this discourse to dwell on a very painful subject, the corruption of France and of her government. Some passages will be found to breathe an indignant spirit; but, I hope, it is an indignation originating in Christian benevolence. I hope that not one line is tinctured with malice or revenge. It is my earnest desire to cherish in myself, and to communicate to others, the universal good-will of my Lord and Saviour; to have my abhorrence of depravity mingled with pity and sorrow for the depraved.

I suppose that there are some minds, which will not readily receive all my representations. But where I cannot convince, I hope that I shall not irritate, for I have labored to avoid it; and I confidently trust, that no good man will accuse me of adding fuel to the fires of rage and discord, which threaten to consume our country.

W. E. C.



MATTHEW xvi. 3.

Can ye not discern the signs of the times?

IT is the design of a day of fasting to produce in a people a sense of their dependence on God; and a deep, penitent conviction of those sins, by which they have exposed themselves to his displeasure. This is a day on which it becomes us to contemplate our situation with seriousness; to inquire into our dangers; to ask ourselves whether we have not provoked divine judgments, and whether divine judgments are not hanging over us; and to implore with humble importunity the forgiveness and blessing of Him, whose word fixes the destinies of nations; whose good providence has been our refuge in the past, whose favour is our only hope for the future.

Perhaps, my friends, we have never before assembled on a day of fasting, when we have had such reason for apprehension and humiliation as at this time. The world is in tears. The fairest portions of the earth, the abodes of civilization and refinement, are laid waste. The storm of war and oppression is spreading its fury and desolation. We not only hear it at a distance; it approaches us, and threatens all we hold dear. Nation after nation is falling with a portentous sound; while the conqueror discovers no symptoms of being wearied with his work. It is not enough that so many thousands of victims have bled on the altar of his ambition. It is not enough that so many ancient thrones have fallen at his feet. Every new acquisition serves but to enlarge his views, and is regarded but as the pledge and promise of wider domination.

At this awful period well may we fear. The stoutest heart may be excused, if it trembles at the scenes, which open before us. On this day, when our sins and dangers as a people are the very objects, on which we ought to fix attention, my mind is irresistibly impelled to dwell on the judgments of God, which are abroad in the earth, and on the ground we have for apprehending, that these judgments, will visit us also. In discoursing on these subjects, I do not feel that I am departing from my province as a minister of Christ. As Christians, we ought to have a strong and lively sensibility to the miseries of the world in which we live, and especially to the miseries which threaten ourselves, and all whom we love. As Christians, we have the deepest concern in the present state of the world; for the interests of religion and morality, as well as national independence and prosperity, are threatened by the great enemy of mankind.

I have been led to select the words of the text on the present occasion, as it appears to me that the reproach, which they contain, applies strongly to this country. It may be said of us, as of the ancient Jews, that we do “not discern the signs of the times”;—that we are insensible to the peculiar character and features of the age, in which we live. I will not say, that the present age is as strongly marked or distinguished from all other ages, as that in which Jesus Christ appeared: but with that single exception, perhaps the present age is the most eventful period, the world has ever known. We live in times, which have no parallel in past ages; in times when the human character has almost assumed a new form; in times of peculiar calamity, of thick darkness, and almost of despair.—But to me it appears, that as a people we “do not discern the signs of the times;”—that we have no just impression of the awful, disastrous state of the world; and it is this insensibility which strikes me as one of the most alarming symptoms in our condition. The danger is so vast, so awful and so obvious, that the blindness, the indifference which prevail, argue infatuation, and give room for apprehension, that nothing can rouse us to those efforts, by which alone the danger can be averted.

Am I asked, what there is so peculiar and so tremendous in the times in which we live? My sentiments on this subject I shall now offer, I hope from pure motives, with the spirit of Christian benevolence, not wishing to force my views on others, but to excite serious, impartial attention to a subject, which almost overwhelms me with its solemnity and importance. Am I then asked, what there is so peculiar and so tremendous in our times?—I answer; In the very heart of Europe, in the centre of the civilized world, a new power has suddenly arisen, on the ruins of old institutions, peculiar in its character, and most ruinous in its influence. We there see a nation, which, from its situation, its fertility, and population, has always held a commanding rank in Europe, suddenly casting off the form of government, the laws, the habits, the spirit, by which it was assimilated to surrounding nations, and by which it gave to surrounding nations the power of restraining it; and all at once assuming a new form, and erecting a new government, free in name and profession, but holding at its absolute disposal the property and life of every subject, and directing all its energies to the subjugation of foreign countries. We see the supreme power of this nation passing in rapid succession from one hand to another.—But its object never changes.—We see it dividing and corrupting by its arts, and then overwhelming by its arms, the nations which surround it. We see one end steadily kept in view—the creation of an irresistible, military power. For this end, we see every man, in the prime of life, subjected to military service. We see military talent every where excited, and by every means rewarded. The arts of life, agriculture, commerce, all are of secondary value. In short, we see a mighty nation sacrificing every blessing, in the prosecution of an unprincipled attempt at universal conquest.

The result, you well know. The surrounding nations, unprepared for this new conflict, and absolutely incapacitated by their old habits and institutions, to meet this new power on equal terms, have fallen in melancholy succession; and each, as it has fallen, has swelled by its plunder the power and rapacity of its conquerors. We now behold this nation triumphant over continental Europe. Its armies are immensely numerous; yet the number is not the circumstance which renders them most formidable. These armies have been trained to conquest by the most perfect discipline. At their head are generals, who have risen only by military merit. They are habituated to victory, and their enemies are habituated to defeat.

All this immense power is now centered in one hand, wielded by one mind,—a mind formed in scenes of revolution and blood,—a mind most vigorous and capacious; but whose capacity is filled with plans of dominion and devastation.—It has not room for one thought of mercy.—The personal character of Napoleon is of itself sufficient to inspire the gloomiest forebodings.—But in addition to his lust for power, he is almost impelled by the necessity of his circumstances, to carry on the bloody work of conquest. His immense armies, the only foundations of his empire, must be supported.—Impoverished France however cannot give them support. They must therefore live on the spoils of other nations. But the nations which they successively spoil, and whose industry and arts they extinguish, cannot long sustain them.—Hence they must pour themselves into new regions. Hence plunder, devastation, and new conquests are not merely the outrages of wanton barbarity; they are essential even to the existence of this tremendous power.

What overwhelming, disheartening prospects are these! In the midst of Christendom, this most sanguinary power has reared its head, and holds the world in defiance—and now let me ask, How are we impressed in these dark, disastrous times?—Here is enough to rend the heart of sensibility. Here is every form of misery. We are called to sympathize with fallen greatness, with descendants of ancient sovereigns, hurled from their thrones, and case out to contempt; and if these will not move us, our sympathy is demanded by a wretched peasantry, driven from their humble roofs, and abandoned to hunger and unsheltered poverty. The decaying city, the desolated country, the weeping widow, the forsaken orphan, call on us for our tears. Nations broken in spirit, yet forced to smother their sorrows, call on us, with a silent eloquence, to feel for their wrongs;—and how are we moved by these scenes of ruin, horror, and alarm? Does there not, my friends, prevail among us a cold indifference, as if all this were nothing to us, as if no tie of brotherhood bound us to these sufferers? Are we not prone to follow the authors of this ruin with an admiration of their power and success, which almost represses our abhorrence of their unsparing cruelty?

But we are not merely insensible to the calamities of other nations. There is a still stranger insensibility to our own dangers. We seem determined to believe, that this storm will spend all its force at a distance. The idea, that we are marked out as victims of this all-destroying despotism, that our turn is to come and perhaps is near,—this idea strikes on most minds as a fiction. Our own deep interest in the present conflict is unfelt even by some, who feel as they ought for other nations.

It is asked, what has a nation so distant as America to fear from the power of France? I answer. The history of all ages teaches us, all our knowledge of human nature teaches us, that a nation of vast and unrivalled power is to be feared by all the world. Even had France attained her present greatness under a long established government, without any of the habits, which the revolution has formed, the world ought to view her with trembling jealousy. What nation ever enjoyed such power without abusing it? But France is not a common nation. We must not apply to her common rules. Conquest is her trade, her business, her recreation. The lust of power is the very vital principle of this new nation. Her strength is drained out to supply her armies;—her talents exhausted in preparing schemes of wider domination. War, war, is the solemn note which resounds through every department of state. And is such a nation to be viewed with indifference, with unconcern? Have we nothing to fear because an ocean rolls between us?

Will it be said that the conqueror has too much work at home to care for America? He has indeed work at home; but unhappily for this country, that work ever brings us to his view. There is one work, one object, which is ever present to the mind of Napoleon. It mingles with all his thoughts. It is his dream by night, his care by day. He did not forget it on the shores of the Baltic, or the banks of the Danube.—The ruin of England is the first, the most settled purpose of his heart. That nation is the only barrier to his ambition. In the opulence, the energy, the public spirit, the liberty of England, he sees the only obstacles to universal dominion. England once fallen, and the civilized world lies at his feet. England erect, and there is one asylum for virtue, magnanimity, freedom; one spark which may set the world on fire; one nation to encourage the disaffected, to hold up to the oppressed the standard of revolt. England therefore is the great object of the hostile fury of the French emperor. England is the great end of his plans; and his plans of course embrace all nations, which come in contact with England; which love or hate her, which can give her support, or contribute to her downfall.

We then, we may be assured, are not overlooked by Napoleon. We are a nation sprung from England. We have received from her our laws, and many of our institutions. We speak her language, and in her language we dare to express the indignation, which she feels at oppression. Besides, we have other ties which connect us with England. We are a commercial people, commercial by habit, commercial by our very situation. But no nation can be commercial without maintaining some connection with England, without having many common interests with her, without strengthening the foundations of her greatness. England is the great emporium of the world; and the conqueror knows, that it is only by extinguishing the commerce of the world, by bringing every commercial nation to bear his yoke, that he can fix a mortal wound on England.—Besides, we are the neighbours of some of an important influence on those channels of her commerce, those sources of her opulence.

Can we then suppose that the ambitious, the keen-sighted Napoleon overlooks us in his scheme of universal conquest; that he wants nothing of us, and is content that we should prosper and be at peace, because we are so distant from his throne? Has he not already told us, that we must embark in his cause? Has he not himself declared war for us against England?

Will it be said, he wants not to conquer us, but only wishes us to be his allies. Allies of France! Is there a man who does not shudder at the thought! Is there one who had not rather struggle nobly, and perish under her open enmity, than be crushed by the embrace of her friendship,—her alliance. To show you the happiness of her alliance, I will not carry you back to Venice, Switzerland, Holland. Their expiring groans are almost forgotten amidst later outrages. Spain, Spain is the ally to whom I would direct you. Are you lovers of treachery, perfidy, rapacity and massacre? Then aspire after the honour which Spain has forfeited, and become the ally of France.

Will it be said that those evils are political evils, and that it is not the province of a minister of religion, to concern himself with temporal affairs? Did I think, my friends, that only political evils were to be dreaded, did I believe that the minds, the character, the morals, the religion of our nation would remain untouched; did I see in French domination nothing but the loss of your wealth, your luxuries, your splendor; could I hope that it would leave unsullied your purity of faith and manners, I would be silent. 1 But religion and virtue, as well as liberty and opulence wither under the power of France. The French revolution was founded in infidelity, impiety, and atheism. This is the spirit of her chiefs, her most distinguished men; and this spirit she breathes, wherever she has influence. It is the most unhappy effect of French domination, that it degrades the human character to the lowest point. No manly virtues grow under this baleful, malignant star. France begins her conquests by corruption, by venality, by bribes; and where she succeeds, her deadly policy secures her from commotion, by quenching all those generous sentiments, which produce revolt under oppression. The conqueror thinks his work not half finished, until the mind is conquered,—its energy broken, its feeling for the public welfare subdued.—Such are the effects of subjection to France, or what is the same thing, of alliance with her: and when we consider how much this subjection is desired by Napoleon; when we consider the power and the arts, which he can combine for effecting his wishes and purposes, what reason have we to tremble!

It may be asked, whether I intend by these remarks to represent my country as hopeless? No, my friends. I have held up the danger of our country in all its magnitude, only that I may in my humble measure excite that spirit, which is necessary, and which by the blessing of Providence may be effectual to avert it. Alarming as our condition is, there does appear to me to be one method of safety, and only one. As a people we must be brought to see and to feel our danger; we must be excited to a public spirit, an energy, a magnanimity, proportioned to the solemnity of the times, in which we are called to act.—If I may be permitted, I would say to the upright, the disinterested, the enlightened friends of their country, that the times demand new and peculiar exertions. In the present state of the world, there is, under God, but one hope of a people; and that is, their own exalted virtue. This therefore should be your object and labour,—to fix the understandings of the people on the calamities, that are approaching them; to enlighten the public mind; to improve our moral feelings; to breathe around you an elevated spirit; to fortify as many hearts as possible with the generous purpose to do all, which men can do, for the preservation of their country.—You should labour, not to excite a temporary paroxysm, for the danger is not to be repelled by a few impassioned efforts. We want a calm and solemn impression fixed in every mind, that we have everything at stake,—that great sacrifices are to be expected, but that the evils are so tremendous as to justify and require every sacrifice. We want to have a general impression made of the character, spirit, designs, power, and arts of France;—of the unparrelled wretchedness, the political, moral, and religious debasement, attendant on union with her, or on subjection to her power. To effect this end I have said, that new exertions should be made. The common vehicles of political information have done, and may do much; but cannot do all, which is required. Authentic publications in the names of our wisest, purest, most venerated citizens should be spread abroad, containing the plain, unexaggerated, uncoloured history of the revolution and domination of France.

It may be said, that the people have all the evidence on this subject already communicated to them.—I fear, that many have not received sufficiently distinct and connected information from sources, on which they rely; and I am confident, that many, who know the truth, need to have the convictions of their understandings converted into active principles, into convictions of the heart. I fear, there are many, who are blinded to the true character of the conqueror of Europe, by the splendor of his victories; many, who attach to him the noble qualities, which have been displayed by other heroes, and who repose a secret hope in his clemency. They ought to know, and they might know, that he has risen to power in a revolution, which has had a peculiar influence in hardening the heart; that his character is unillumined by one ray of beneficence; that he is dark, vindictive, unrelenting; that no man loves him, that he cares for no man’s love; that he asks only to be feared, and that fear and horror are the only sentiments he ought to inspire.

I fear there are many, who attach ideas of happiness and glory to France, because they hear of the conquest of French armies; and I fear that this impression reconciles them to the thought of union with her. They might now, and they ought to know, that France is drinking even to the dregs that cup of sorrow, which she has mingled for other nations. They should be taught, that she is most degraded in her moral and religious condition, and wretchedly impoverished; that her agriculture, her manufactures, her commercial cities are falling to decay; that she is ground with oppressive taxes, most oppressively collected; that her youth are torn from their families, to fill up the constant ravages, which war and disease are making in her armies; that with all her sufferings she is not permitted the poor privilege of complaining; that her cities, villages, and houses are thronged with spies to catch and report the murmurs of disaffection. In a word, the people might and should be taught, that social confidence, public spirit, enterprise, cheerful industry, and moral and religious excellence have almost forsaken that unhappy country.

On these topics, and on many others, which would illustrate the character and tendency of the French domination, might not conviction be carried to some minds at least; and might not many sluggish minds be awakened, if persevering, steady efforts were made by men, whose characters would be pledges of their veracity and disinterestedness. Sudden effects might not be produced, and perhaps sudden effects are not to be desired. We do not want a temporary, evanescent ardour, excited for partial purposes and local objects. We want a rational conviction of their great danger fastened on the people, and a steady and generous purpose to resist it by every means, which Providence has put within their power.—Let me entreat all, who are interested in this great object, the improvement and elevation of public sentiment, to adhere to such means only as are worthy that great end; to suppress and condemn all appeals to unworthy passions, all misrepresentation, and all that abuse, which depraves public taste and sentiment, and makes a man of a pure mind ashamed of the cause, which he feels himself bound to support.—Let me also urge you to check the feelings and the expressions of malignity and revenge. Curses, denunciations, and angry invectives are not the language of that spirit, to which I look for the safety of our country. We ought to know, that the malignant passions of a people are among the powerful instruments, by which the enemy binds them to his yoke. The patriotism, which we need, is a benevolent, generous, forbearing spirit; too much engrossed with the public welfare to be stung by personal opposition; calm and patient in exhibiting the truth; and tolerant towards those, who cannot, or who will not receive it. Let me repeat it; the end, we should propose, the elevation of public sentiment and feeling, is not to be secured by violence or passion, but by truth, from the hearts, and lips, and pens of men, whose lives and characters will give it energy.

But as the most effectual method of exalting the views, purposes, and character of our nation, let me entreat you, who are lovers of your country, to labour with all your power to diffuse the faith and practice of the gospel of Christ. The prevalence of true Christianity is the best defense of a nation, especially at this solemn and eventful period. It will secure to us the blessing of Almighty God; and it will operate more powerfully than any other cause, in making us recoil from the embrace of France. No greater repugnance can be conceived, than what subsists between the mild, humane, peaceful, righteous, and devout spirit of the gospel, and the impious, aspiring, and rapacious spirit of this new nation. Christianity will indeed exclude from our breasts all feelings of ill-will, malice, and revenge towards France and her sovereign;—for these are feelings, which it never tolerates. But it will inspire an holy abhorrence of her spirit and designs, and will make us shudder at the thought of sinking under her power, or aiding her success.

But it becomes us to promote Christianity, not only because it will help to save our country.—We should cherish and diffuse it, because it will be a refuge and consolation, even should our country fall; a support, which the oppressor cannot take from us. The sincere Christian is not comfortless even in the darkest and most degenerate times. He knows, that oppressive power is but for a moment; and his benevolence is animated by the promise of God, that even in this world, this scene of cruelty and wretchedness, there will yet be enjoyed the reign of peace, of truth, and holiness under the benignant Saviour. And this is not all. He looks upwards with a serene and ennobling hope to another and a better world, where the wicked never trouble, where the weary are at rest; where the rage of party never agitates; where he shall be associated with wise, pure, and good beings, in retracing and admiring the dispensations of Providence, under which he now suffers; in exploring and extolling the works, ways, and perfections of God, and in accomplishing with an ardent and unwearied love his benevolent designs.—May we, my friends, so pass through this stormy world, so fulfill our duty in this dark and trying day, that we shall be welcomed to the abodes of light and peace through Jesus Christ our Saviour.


I insert this note, that I may express more fully my sorrow and dismay at the influence of the French domination on the moral and religious state of the world. I need not recall to my readers the blasphemies and impieties of the authors of the French revolution. Oh, that their spirit had perished with them! But the shock, which they gave to the religious principles and feelings of their own and other nations, is still felt. I have heard truly affecting accounts of the depraved state of France, of the general insensibility to God which pervades the nation, of the selfishness and licentiousness of the rich, of the fraud and oppression of men in power, and of the want of mutual confidence among all ranks of people.

Wherever the French power extends, the same effects are produced. A cold and suspicious selfishness is diffused through society. Traitors are rewarded with power. An invisible army of spies, more terrible than the legions of the conqueror, are scattered abroad to repress that frank communication, which relieves and improves the heart. The press is in bondage. Nothing issues from it, but what accords with the views of the conqueror. Offensive truth is a crime not easily expiated. Under such strong temptations to flattery and deceit, the love of truth cannot long subsist. I fear, that if the fall of England should place the world in the power of France, the press would become the greatest scourge of mankind. No sentiments, but what are approved by an unprincipled despotism, would reach the next generation; and these sentiments would be poured into their minds, by means of the press, with a facility never possessed before the discovery of printing.

Let me here observe, that the contrast of England with France in point of morals and religion is one ground of hope to the devout mind in these dark and troubled times. On this subject, I have heard but one opinion from good men, who have visited the two countries. The character of England is to be estimated particularly from what may be called the middle class of society, the most numerous class in all nations, and more numerous and influential in England than in any other nation of Europe. The warm piety, the active benevolence, and the independent and manly thinking, which are found in this class, do encourage me in the belief, that England will not be forsaken by God in her solemn struggle.

I feel myself bound to all nations by the ties of a common nature, a common father, and a common Saviour. But I feel a peculiar interest in England; for I believe, that there Christianity is exerting its best influences on the human character; that there the perfections of human nature, wisdom, virtue and piety, are fostered by excellent institutions, and are producing the delightful fruits of domestic happiness, social order, and general prosperity. It is a hope, which I could not resign without anguish, that the “prayers and alms” of England “will come up for a memorial before God,” and will obtain for her his sure protection against the common enemy of the civilized world.



1. See Note.


* Originally Posted: Dec. 26, 2016

Sermon – Thanksgiving – 1795


Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826) Biography:

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Morse graduated from Yale in 1783. He began the study of theology, and in 1786 when he was ordained as a minister, he moved to Midway, Georgia, spending a year there. He then returned to New Haven, filling the pulpit in various churches. In 1789, he took the pastorate of a church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, where he served until 1820. Throughout his life, Morse worked tirelessly to fight Unitarianism in the church and to help keep Christian doctrine orthodox. To this end, he helped organize Andover Theological Seminary as well as the Park Street Church of Boston, and was an editor for the Panopolist (later renamed The Missionary Herald), which was created to defend orthodoxy in New England. In 1795, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity by the University of Edinburgh. Over the course of his pastoral career, twenty-five of his sermons were printed and received wide distribution.

Morse also held a lifelong interest in education. In fact, shortly after his graduation in 1783, he started a school for young ladies. As an avid student of geography, he published America’s very first geography textbook, becoming known as the “Father of American Geography,” and he also published an historical work on the American Revolution. He was part of the Massachusetts Historical Society and a member in numerous other literary and scientific societies.

Morse also had a keen interest in the condition of Native Americans, and in 1820, US Secretary of War John C. Calhoun appointed him to investigate Native tribes in an effort to help improve their circumstances (his findings were published in 1822). His son was Samuel F. B. Morse, who invented the telegraph and developed the Morse Code.

The present Situation of other Nations of

the World, contrasted with our own.





In The


February 19, 1795:

Being the Day Recommended by


President of the United States of America,







The Congregation in Charlestown,

At whose Request is made publick,

The Following Discourse.

(Enlarged and illustrated with NOTES.)

Is Respectfully Addressed

By Their Affectionate


Charlestown, February 26, 1795.


Ver. 8. What Nation is there so great, that hath Statutes and Judgments so righteous as all this Law which I set before you this day.

Ver. 6. Keep therefore and do them, for this is your Wisdom and your Understanding in the sight of the Nations, which shall hear all these Statues, and say, Surely this great Nation is a wise and understanding People.

Ver. 9. Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy Soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; but teach them to thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.

My Brethren,

There cannot be a more pleasing sight here on earth, than a Christian assembly, impressed with a lively sense of the Divine goodness and bounty, and expressing in their countenances their heart felt joy, voluntarily convened, as we are this day, at the voice of our Chief Magistrate, to unite with our fellow-citizens, in rendering praise to Almighty God, for his manifold mercies. The pleasure excited, on such an occasion, is heightened by the consideration, that millions of people are, at the same time, uniting in this delightful service. How much greater still, would be this pleasure, if there were good reasons to hope, that all these millions were of the number of the true worshippers of God, and felt towards him true gratitude, or “Christian thankfulness,” for his mercies? Then our country would this day resemble the heavenly world; and there would be an addition, small, yet acceptable, to the incense of praise which is daily offered by the celestial choir to their heavenly Father. – May this gracious Being, by his good Spirit, sanctify and prepare our hearts, and the hearts of all his people assembled this day, for this pleasing employment, that so we may celebrate a rational and acceptable Thanksgiving to our God.

With a view to lead your minds to a survey of the various distinguishing blessings of divine Providence towards us as a nation, and to excite correspondent sentiments of gratitude, I have chosen, as the foundation of the present discourse, a part of the address of Moses to the children of Israel, which we have just recited.

The book of Deuteronomy contains a repetition of the principal events which happened to the children of Israel, and of the laws which God had given them, during their memorable forty years journey from Egypt to Canaan. The generation who heard these laws originally delivered, and were eye-witnesses of these wonderful things, having been cut off for their rebellion, it pleased God that Moses, for their instruction and warning, should recite them to the new generation before his death. This interesting rehearsal was made on the plains of Moab, by this eminent servant of God, “in the fortieth year, and the eleventh month,” [i] of their pilgrimage. It was the business of the last month of his life, when he was an hundred and twenty years old; and is a standing proof of the truth of what his historian relates of him, that “his nature force was not abated.” [ii]

To have beheld and heard this venerable leader, and Father of his people, rehearing to them the various wonders which God had wrought in their behalf – teaching them with the dignity and affection of a parent, that statues and judgments which God had given them by him – calling upon them to review the situation of other nations, in contrast with their own; and thus impressing them with a deep sense of the great and distinguishing blessings which they enjoyed, and of their consequent obligations to obedience – exhibiting before them the advantages that would accrue from a faithful regard to these excellent statutes and judgments, in point of national honor, dignity and happiness – warning them, with solemnity and earnestness, of the fatal consequences of disobedience, vain glory and ingratitude – and, finally, after pathetically exhorting them to obey and praise God for his wondrous goodness, closing the interesting scene with his paternal blessing. To have witnessed such a scene, must have been no less affecting them improving.

A scene, in several respects resembling this, we, my brethren, are invited, this day, to contemplate—One at least equally calculated to affect, to improve and animate our hearts. A nation, far greater than that which Moses addressed, is assembled this day before the Lord, by the recommendation of their venerable[iii] political Leader and Father—who, in respect to his talents as a general in war, and a chief Magistrate in civil affairs—his success in exercising these talents—his prudence, sagacity, and paternal care, vigilance and solicitude for the safety, peace and happiness of the people, and his possessing their entire confidence and esteem, may with singular propriety be compared to Moses.

This incomparable Chief—this Moses of our nation, in his admired Proclamation, invites his numerous and happy fellow-citizens, to learn, from “a review of the calamities which afflict so many other nations,” how to appreciate their own happy condition.”  He rehearses to us the remarkable interpositions of Providence, in rescuing us from various dangers which threatened us, and enumerates the singular blessings “which peculiarly mark our situation with indications of the divine beneficence towards us.”

Behold the good man, deeply penetrated himself with the duty, “in such a state of things, of acknowledging, with devout reverence, and affectionate gratitude, our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and of imploring of him the continuance and confirmation of these blessings”—Behold him, in virtue of the authority annexed to his high office, “recommending” to the people at large, unitedly, on this day, to “render their sincere and hearty thanks to the great Ruler of Nations, for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation,” and pointing our attention singularly to these “signal mercies.”—Behold him, as the Father of his people, dispensing, in the most delicate and impressive manner, his wise and salutary instructions and admonitions—teaching us that “God is the kind Author of all our blessings”—that to him alone we must look for their continuance—that to him, we should feel under the most solemn obligations for these blessings, the immense value of which we should rightly estimate.—Warning us to guard against “arrogance in prosperity”—and against “hazarding the advantages we enjoy by delusive pursuits”—exhorting us, by a grateful, upright and suitable behavior, “as citizens and as men,” to secure to ourselves “the continuance of his favours”—and by these means to render this country, more and more a safe and propitious asylum for the unfortunate of other countries”—recommending, implicitly, what is the great basis of a Republican government—of equal rights, and of publick and social happiness—a careful attention to publick and domestick education, in order that “true and useful learning may be extended,” and “habits of sobriety, order, morality and piety diffused and established.”—Behold him, finally, closing the important summary, by calling on us to unite in the benevolent petition, that God would graciously “impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind!”—What an august scene, my brethren, is here presented for our contemplation!—How well calculated to excite supreme and fervent love and gratitude to the Father of Mercies—and lively emotions of sincere, subordinate affection and respect, for Him at whose call we are here assembled, and who has been honoured as the instrument of so much good to mankind!—In great truth may we adopt and apply the language of Moses and David—“Happy are ye,” oh ye citizens of united America—“Who is like unto thee, oh, people saved by the Lord, who is the shield of your help, and the sword of your excellency.”[iv]—“He hath not dealt so with any nation—Praise ye the Lord.”[v]

Indeed , when I think on the grandeur and importance of the subjects to which our attention is solemnly invited this day, I feel deeply impressed with a sense of my own insufficiency to do them justice, and am ready to shrink from the task.  In humble dependence, however, on that Almighty Father, whose goodness we celebrate, and who, through the blessed Redeemer of men, is ever most ready to “give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him”—I shall attempt to give, in conformity to the spirit and meaning of the text, and in compliance with the Proclamation—


In the prosecution of this plan it will naturally fall in my way to take notice of the special blessings enumerated in the Proclamation.—The discourse will be closed with some practical inferences and observations.—The plan proposed, you must be sensible, can be executed only in a concise and comprehensive manner, in a single discourse.

In comparing our situation, in a national view, with that of others, it is hard for us to divest our minds of partialities and prejudices—and to place ourselves in their circumstances—which ought as far as possible to be done, in order to avoid the charge of partiality and unfairness.  In many cases, which occur in a minute comparison between nations, it is difficult to determine on which side the balance of advantage lies.  There are, however, certain prominent features in the existing state of the nations of the earth, and in their political, religious, moral, literary and social character, which strongly mark their difference, and from a comparison of which, we may, without arrogance, or presumption, decide to whose lot most probably falls the greatest share of happiness.  These only will be the subjects of comparison.

To proceed  with some degree of method, we will, in the first place, take a summary review of the existing state of several other nations, and briefly of the World in general:–and, secondly, attempt a description of our own.  The result, we anticipate, will be such as to “afford us much matter of consolation, satisfaction,” and gratitude to God, and for the exercise of tender sympathy and benevolence towards the afflicted and oppressed of other nations of the world.

We begin with the Republick of France.  This mighty nation has burst the chains of civil and ecclesiastical tyranny.  They have arisen from the darkness of slavery to the light of freedom.  With boldness and energy which astonishes and interests the world, they have espoused the cause of Liberty, which is the birth-right of mankind.  With wonderful speed and success, they have vanquished, on every side, the numerous hosts of enemies, which rose up against them.—Lately, a dangerous combination of sanguinary men[vi] has been checked, if not wholly suppressed, which has happily paved the way for the adoption of moderate and rational measures; from the prevalence of which, there is a pleasing hope, (we pray it may not prove delusive) that there will be a speedy termination of the spirit of Vandalism[vii]of internal rebellions[viii]–of pernicious and destructive jealousies—of barbarous and shocking executions of the innocent.[ix]

Notwithstanding these favourable and pleasing circumstances, and the prospect of an advantageous peace with some of the combined powers, the existing state of things, in this great Republick, is very unpleasant.  Their enemies, though defeated, are not conquered; they still exist, and are formidable.  Jealousies and party-spirit, though much abated, yet disturb the harmony of the nation, and require to be watched with a vigilant eye.  Their government is unsettled, and revolutionary.  When the external pressure, which now binds them together, shall be taken off by a general peace, and the numerous armies of the republick[x]  shall return into its bosom, if we may judge from our own revolution, the nation will divide into parties, from local interests and prejudices; and it will probably take years to form and establish a government which shall unite all interests, and met the views of all parties; though, I firmly believe, that they will finally overcome all intervening obstacles, and obtain such a government.  The Christian Religion, and its sacred institutions, are spurned at, and rejected.[xi]  Scarcity6 threatens them.  Their manufactures are in ruins.[xii]  An enormously expensive war is loading the nation with a debt, which, added to their former one,[xiii] must, hereafter, in all probability, injuriously affect, in various ways, the liberties, the morals, and happiness of the people.  Besides, the mischief which a state of war ever operates in regard to religion, learning, and arts,[xiv] morals and domestick happiness is incalculably great.  How calamitous then must be the present condition of the French nation in these respects?—I forbear any details on these points.  A recurrence to our own situation, at the height of our revolution was, allowing for the difference of numbers, and the difference of religious and political state between the two nations, will give us a faint idea of the present state of our allies.  While we felicitate ourselves in a freedom from the various calamities which afflict this magnanimous nations, we cannot but feel deeply interested in their happiness, and wish for their success, in all virtuous measures, to advance a cause dear to mankind, and in defence of which we formerly experienced their generous aid.[xv]

Here let us pause a moment, to pay a just tribute of gratitude and sympathy to that generous, but unfortunate Patriot, whose disinterested zeal and services[xvi] in the cause of Liberty, both in America and France, have embalmed his memory in the heart of every grateful American.—Yes, La Fayette, could our ardent prayers have rescued thee from thy prison and thy chains, and have wafted thee to this country of freedom and happiness, long since wouldst thou have been welcomed to her friendly bosom.  We devoutly implore the God of compassion to mitigate and to shorten the period of thy sufferings; and to “cause thee yet to see good days, according to the days in which thou hast seen evil!”  May you live to enjoy, in your own country, the fair harvest of that liberty, the seeds of which were planted, and for a season cherished, by your own hand!

We turn next our attention to Great-Britain.  The following picture of the present state of this Kingdom is drawn to our hand.  “If ever a period called for the exertions of a people in their own defence, the present is the one.  The crisis is awful and unprecedented.  Our situation is new, and to new measures must we have recourse. Antiquity leaves us without like or rule, whereby to guide our conduct.  To ourselves, and on ourselves only, must we look, and depend.  At this alarming, eventful moment, when a political system, bold and fascinating in principle, destructive of all existing governments, is adopted and supported by thirty millions of people, established by will and force, in the most fertile regions of the earth, and is daily gaining, throughout Europe, myriads of votaries, what measures are left for us to follow?  How are we to act?  And what are we to do?—Plans are adopted without prudence, and executed without resolution and success.  The millions slain in the fields of Belgium—the populous cities of Great-Britain and Ireland, thinned of their inhabitants—the loom still and neglected—the industrious youth of the provinces dragged from the plough, and shipped off by hundreds, to oppose, in a strange and hostile country, the enthusiastic movements of an armed nation—their bleeding wounds—their agonizing cries, argue forcibly against the measures of the present administration.

“The fall of  kingdom, like that of the mountain-flood, comes when we least expect it.  Britons! Beware—behold the dangers which surround you, and tremble for the consequences.  Involved in a ruinous war—your armies flying before a victorious enemy—unassisted and betrayed by those who call themselves your allies—the publick money prodigally lavished on Sardinian mercenaries in British pay—the satellites of Prussia, supported by your revenues, in the prosecution of  war[xvii] whose object is the destruction of millions—the slavery of a Nation—The blood of Kosciusko, cries against us.  Add to this, a ruined commerce at home—our manufactures annihilated—Gazettes swelled with bankruptcies—a total loss of credit—a want of confidence in every department of State; and, finally, an unprincipled ministry, who drive the nation down the strong tide of power, the floating wreck of their own avarice and ambition.  Such, Britons! Is the picture of your present state.”  He adds,

“Our state to-day, is more desperate than it was yesterday. The arrival of each mail announces the loss of battles—the capture of towns.  Behold Holland a prey to the victorious enemy!  Her military stores, her bank—her navy, are the prize of conquest.  Maestricht has capitulated—Nimeguen receives their troops—Where is our army?  What corner is to receive them?—Even now the enemy dispute with us the empire of the seas.  Should the navy of Holland be thrown into the hostile scale, what would be the consequence?—I walk over deceitful embers—The subject will not bear discussion.”[xviii]

The colouring of this melancholy picture is high; but do not accounts from this quarter, confirm the truth of a great part of the facts here stated?—We may add, as further indicative of the distress of this nation—their persecutions for political opinions, to which Muir, Palmer, Margarot, and others, have fallen victims—the pernicious and distressing effects of the Test Act, which has driven thousands of valuable citizens from the kingdom—and their oppressive taxes, which are rendered necessary, in consequence of an enormous and increasing debt, and an unpopular, destructive, and iniquitous war; and doubly discouraging, because there is no hope of their decrease or termination.[xix]  Far be it from us to exult in thus depicting the misfortunes and distress of this nation, hostile as their government has been to our interests and happiness.  While we are thankful to God, for our own prosperous and happy state, we sincerely deplore the miseries in which they are involved—and deprecate the greater ones, which apparently threaten them.  While as Republicans we finally assert and maintain our rights; as Christians let us forgive the wrongs we have unjustly suffered.

From Great-Britain, let us turn our attention to Spain.  View her armies flying before a victorious enemy, and leaving their thousands slain and wounded, with immense spoils behind them.  In addition to the horrors and calamities of a fierce, bloody and unsuccessful war, which I leave to your own imaginations to paint, contemplate the political—the religious—the moral, and the literary state of this kingdom.  And when you are informed that the government is despotick—the monarch absolute, and the religion papal, you will easily infer what is their situation in respect to politicks and religion, literature and morals.

From Spain, proceed to the Seventeen Provinces, called the Netherlands.[xx]  What language can describe the scenes of carnage, ruin and distress which have been exhibited for several years past, in this fertile and populous part of the world?  These unfortunate Provinces have been the seat of the present war; in the course of which, some of them have repeatedly changed masters.  Their plains have been enriched with millions of human corpses, unhappy victims in the cause either of liberty or despotism, who have perished by the sword, pestilence, fatigue, terror and famine.  And what I their present situation?  Some of them are annexed to the French Republick, and are represented in the National Convention. Their state, however, which must be considered as revolutionary, is far from being tranquil or secure.  The next campaign may recover them, voluntarily or involuntarily, to their former condition, and they may again become a circle of the German Empire.  Holland, which includes the greater part of the other Provinces, lies at the mercy of a victorious army, lodged in the heart of their country, and dictating their own terms of peace or submission.

Would you behold a country in still deeper distress?—turn your eyes to Poland.  For more than twenty years past, this ill-fated nation has been the sport of her unprincipled neighbours, the Empress of Russia, the Emperor of Germany, and the King of Prussia.  In 1772, these formidable powers entered into a most wicked alliance to divide and dismember the kingdom of Poland. This they easily effected, in direct isolation of the most solemn treaties, and in a manner tyrannical and cruel beyond all former precedent.  The time will not admit of entering into any details on this most affecting subject.  I cannot help observing, however, that the other European powers, beheld these iniquitous transactions, by which a great kingdom, of FOURTEEN MILLIONS of souls, was violently and surreptitiously deprived of a great part of its territory, and a third part of its inhabitants, with an inhuman indifference and unconcern.

The baneful effects of these proceedings were severely felt, till the memorable and happy Revolution in 1791.[xxi] By this revolution, effected without blood shed or even tumult among the people, and in its principles highly favourable to their rights and liberties, Poland had a fair prospect of enjoying some repose after her calamities, and of becoming powerful, prosperous and independent.  But, alas! short were her triumphs, and delusive her prospects.  Her ambitious, rapacious and but too powerful neigbours, envious at her tranquility, and jealous of her increasing strength, under a free and equal government, and of the spread of the principles of freedom, have, in the same inhuman manner as before[xxii] (in 1772) combined against her, and have replunged her still deeper in the abyss of misery.  Noble, vigorous, and worthy of their good cause, have been the struggles of this great nation, under the auspices of kings,[xxiii] and the immediate are command of a brave and admired General,[xxiv] against the most brutal tyranny:  But the arm of despotism, after a dubious contest, has proved too mighty for them, and reduced them, we have too much reason to fear, to unconditional submission.  What carnage, what horrors have marked the routes of the victorious liberticides, the slaves of the tyraness of Russia?[xxv]  The miseries of the Polish nation, judging from the latest accounts from that quarter, are, at this time, great and deplorable beyond description.  Unfortunate, afflicted brethren in the bonds of freedom, we weep with you!—Thy wounds, Kosciusko, are thy glory—Thy blood will accelerate the growth of “the tree of Liberty”—Thy fate interests the feelings of the friends of liberty through Europe and America—Thy rich reward is their esteem and admiration.  May it comfort thee in thy prison!—

We rejoice that a righteous God reigns, who will one day avenge the cause of the innocent and oppressed, and will so over-rule the dark dispensations of his Providence, as to bring great glory to his own name, and happiness to the whole family of mankind.

The little Republick of Geneva,[xxvi] next claims our attention.  Only four years ago, this people were as happy and as flourishing in their government, commerce, manufactures, religion and morals, as any people on earth.—Now, through a pernicious, disorganizing foreign influence—an influence which has since threatened us with the same calamities, they are reduced to the most humiliating and afflicting state of anarchy and distress.  “Geneva,” says the intelligent historian of this Revolution, “is lost, without resource, in respect to religion, to morals, to the sciences—to the fine arts, to trade, to liberty, and above all, to internal peace.  Its convulsions have no other term than those of France, to the fate of which, it has had the criminal imprudence irremissibly to attach itself, and the various shocks of which, it must more or less, inevitably suffer.”[xxvii]

The nations we have mentioned, with their dependent colonies in the West-Indies, whose wretchedness equals that of any country we have described—embrace that portion of mankind, which, so far as we know, are, at the present time, involved in the most afflicting and deplorable misery.  All the other nations of Europe, are more or less affected by the present convulsed state of things in this quarter of the world.

The unwieldy Germanick Empire, without power to execute its will[xxviii]–without finances—involved in a destructive and unpopular war—is divided against itself, and is probably tottering into ruin.

The enslaved subjects of the two most insidious, unfeeling, and (shall I say amiss, if I add) monstrous tyrants perhaps, on earth, I mean the Empress of Russia, and the King of Prussia—the slaves of these cruel despots, who are employed in butchering their fellow-men by thousands, cannot, generally speaking, be otherwise than wretched.  Till the period arrives, and I believe it to be fast approaching, when a sufficient degree of knowledge of their rights, shall be disseminated among the lower orders of people, as to enable them to effect a revolution, and to break the chains which bind them, it must, I think, be considered rather as their felicity, than their misfortune, that they are ignorant and insensible of the evils which it is their lot to endure.

The neutral nations of Europe, which are few in number, and even when combined, of small weight in the political scale, subjected, as they are, to constant irritations and alarms from their more powerful neighbours, must be in a state of painful solicitude, lest they should be drawn into the whirlpool, which disturbs the peace, and threatens the overthrow of so many of the powers around them.

From Europe we pass into Asia.  Of this immense quarter of the Globe, containing, it is conjectured, more than half mankind[xxix]–our knowledge is very imperfect.  Judging, however, from the best accounts that have come to our knowledge, their state, in a political, religious, moral and social view, is far from being either enviable or eligible.  This vast country is divided between the despotick Empires of China, Russia, the Great Mogul, Persia, and Turkey; except what is inhabited by the wild and wandering Arabs and Tartars, who are said to be the only people in Asia “that enjoy any share of liberty,” if what they possess may be honoured with the name. In regard to religion, the greater part of the inhabitants are Pagans and Idolaters; the rest are Mahometans, Jews, and a few Christians.  From the nature of their government and religion, we are left to infer their political, moral and social state.  “The system of morals, in this country,” says a celebrated historian, speaking of Asia in general, “is no less extraordinary than that of nature.  When we fix our eyes on this vast continent, where nature hath exerted her utmost efforts for the happiness of man, we cannot but regret that man hath done all in his power to oppose her.  The rage of conquest, and what is a no less destructive evil, the greediness of traders, have in their turns, ravaged and oppressed the finest country on the face of the globe.”[xxx]

Of the various nations in Asia, the Chinese are generally believed to be the best governed, the most civilized and the happiest.—Their panegyrists have said, extravagantly enough, that “the history of this well-governed Empire, is the history of mankind; and the rest of the world resembles the chaos of matter, before it was wrought into form.”[xxxi]  And what is the state of this happiest of people?—China, beyond doubt, is the most populous spot on the globe—of course, judging from the experience of all ages, the people must be the most corrupt in their morals; and for the same reasons that our populous towns are more depraved in this respect, than the country.—What opinion should we form of the character, laws and manners of that people, among whom we should see, “not unfrequently, one province rushing upon another, and putting all the inhabitants to death, without mercy, and with impunity?”  Whose laws neither “restrain nor punish the exposure or the murder of new-born infants?”—Whose “Sovereign is the cudgel?”—Among whom “the innocent man is often, by infamous magistrates, condemned, whipped and thrown into prison; and the guilty pardoned upon the payment of a pecuniary fine; or punished, if the offended person happen to be the most powerful?”[xxxii]—And where “one half the inhabitants are employed in cheating and over-reaching the other?”[xxxiii]—And such, it is affirmed, by respectable historians, are the character, laws and manners of the Chinese, who are the wisest and most civilized people in Asia.

In India,  though we find much to admire in their code of laws, we find much also to deplore—many indications of barbarism and wretchedness—Some of their laws are infamous, inhuman, cruel and glaringly unequal and unjust.[xxxiv]  The condition of the lower classes of people is wretched and horrible in every respect—The Pouliats, or the fifth cast, the refuse of all the rest, are employed in the meanest offices of society, and live upon the flesh of animals that die natural deaths—They are forbid to enter the temples—the publick markets, and even the streets where the Bramins reside—They can neither possess nor lease lands—and may be put to death with impunity, if they chance to touch any one that does not belong to their tribe.

Degraded and contemptible as these Pouliats are, it is said “they have expelled from among themselves the Pouliches, still more degraded.  These last are forbidden the use of fire—they are not permitted to build huts, but are reduced to the necessity of living in a kind of nest, which they make for themselves in the forests, and upon the trees.  When pressed with hunger, they howl like wild beasts, to excite the compassion of the passengers.  The most charitable among the Indians, then deposit some rice or other food at the foot of a tree, and retire with all possible haste, to give the famished wretch an opportunity of taking it without meeting his benefactor, who would think himself polluted by coming near him.”[xxxv]—This is the dark side of the picture of the present condition of this numerous people—but contrasted with the darkest shades in our own, the difference is great and striking, and is calculated to excite the warmest effusions of gratitude to Him “who hath made us to differ.”

The time would fail me to give even a cursory view of the state of the other nations of Asia.—To relieve your patience, which I fear is already fatigued, I shall traverse with rapidity, the other parts of the globe.

Of Africa, inhabited, according to common computation, by 150 millions of people, we know still less than of Asia, and but little more of South America; and least of all of the wild inhabitants of those extensive regions which lie West and North of the United States and Canada.  From the little we do know of them, however, it will not be presuming too much to give it as our opinion, that the most enlightened, the best governed, and he happiest among the numerous nations in these quarters of the globe, fall far below these United States—I will not say in their morals—for in this point, a comparison with some other nations, I fear, would be against us—but in their constitutions of government—in their laws—in science—in their knowledge of useful arts—in a word, in their religious, civil and social privileges.

After taking this general view of the nations of the earth, (in doing which I have taken up more time than I intended, though far less than it required, to do it full justice)—we are prepared to revisit our own country—and to survey the blessings which distinguish it from the rest of the world.—These have been so often enumerated on occasions like the present, that little that is new, will be expected, and brevity, of course, will be acceptable.

  1. Our lot is distinguished from that of many other nations, by the blessings of Peace.  We have seen how great a portion of the world is afflicted with the awful calamities of War.  In consequence of our intimate connexion with some of the belligerent powers, by means of the iniquitous commercial depredations of one, and a fascinating and dangerous influence of another, the peace of our neutral nation has been imminently endangered.  By means of the latter, the poisonous seeds of a party, disorganizing spirit were sown thick among us—and being nourished by the former, sprung up and increased, for a short time, with alarming rapidity; and threatened us with all the calamities, first of a foreign, then of an intestine war.—The fruits of these seeds have been more or less visible in all parts of our country, but none have been so matured and conspicuous as the Western insurrection.—The wise, decisive and seasonable measures adopted by the Supreme Executive, and the other officers of government, and advocated and supported by the great body of enlightened citizens, to check and counteract this dangerous foreign influence in all its shapes—have, under the smiles of Province, procured our exemption hitherto from foreign war—and by means of a late happily concluded foreign negociation,[xxxvi]–and the increasing harmony and union between this country and the French nation, in consequence of the recent happy change in the measures of their government—we have the most pleasing “prospect of a continuance of this exemption.”

A blessing no less distinguishing than our exemption from foreign war, is the  preservation of our internal tranquility, when “wantonly threatened” by a daring insurrection.  The alacrity with which our fellow-citizens, when called, flew to the standard of their Chief, on the trying emergency, when the important question was to be decided, Whether we should be governed by a mob, or by our legal representatives?—the ease and celerity with which a most respectable and formidable army was collected—the zeal and patriotism which animated them—the complete success with which their exertions were crowned—and the general applause they received from their grateful fellow-citizens—all these circumstances serve to confirm our internal tranquility, as they operate to discourage ambitious and unprincipled demagogues from making the like attempts to interrupt our peace in future—and to increase the confidence of the people in the stability, energy and promptness of our Federal Government.

When we turn our eyes to the little Republick of Geneva, and behold her deep distress—and trace the causes which led to it—we cannot but feel the most undissembled gratitude to God, our kind Preserver, in that we have so happily escaped the very same snares, which have involved her in ruin.

In speaking of our domestic peace, we ought not to pass unnoticed, the state of our frontiers.  For several years past we have been engaged in an unhappy contest with the Indian nations.  Since we have been able satisfactorily to trace the origin of this expensive war—and know that the unfortunate tries who have been engaged in it, have been deceived, urged on, and assisted by a foreign nation, whose measures have been peculiarly hostile to our prosperity and peace; and no less so, we believe, to the happiness and true interests of the Indians themselves—the necessity and justice of the vigorous measures of our government in prosecuting it, can hardly be doubted by any one.  The signal success, therefore, of our frontier army[xxxvii] the last year, must be considered a favour of Divine Providence.  In consequence of this success, and the pacific treaties and measures entered into and pursuing by our government, and the change of plans in the British government, the aspect of affairs in our western borders, though still unsettled, wear a more favourable and pacific aspect.

  1. Our lot as a nation is distinguished from that of the other nations of the world, by “the possession of constitutions of government which unite—and by their union establish liberty with order.”  The principles of our Federal and State constitutions are the same; and have for their object the protection and safety of the lives, the liberties and fortunes of the citizens.—The state governments are protected against an undue interference of the Federal Government—each is left to make and to execute its own local laws—while the Federal Government corrects and harmonizes the jarring interests of the state governments, and cements their union.  Our constitutions of government indeed are the fruit of the experience of all former ages, and the trial of them has proved their singular excellency.  In no nation on earth do the citizens enjoy protection and safety in their rights, at the expense of so small a portion of their natural liberty—Each individual is secured in the possession of his own rights, but in no instance suffered to encroach upon the rights of others.
  2. The wise and salutary laws, which flow from, and correspond with, our free constitutions of government—the freedom and the frequency of our elections—the patronage and encouragement given to publick and school education, and to all useful mechanic arts and improvements-the perfect enjoyment of religious as well as civil liberty—the means afforded, and the measures contemplated to extinguish our national debt[xxxviii]–and in general “the unexampled prosperity of all classes of our citizens;”—these are signal blessings, which, if they do not distinguish our lot from every other nation, they do from most of them—and certainly “mark our situation with peculiar indications of the divine beneficence towards us.”

“When,” therefore, “we review the calamities which afflict so many other nations”—when we survey and consider the state of the whole World, so far as our knowledge extends—does not “the present condition of the United States” indeed afford much matter of consolation and satisfaction?”—“In such a state of things, is it not, in an especial manner, our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God?”  “What nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law which I set before you this day?”—“How great is the sum” of our mercies?—What shall we render to the Lord for all his benefits?”

If our situation, my brethren, be such as we have represented—if the Governour of the Universe has thus distinguished us with his favours—then, surely, we ought to be the best people in the world.  “To whom much is given, of them much is required.”  Our gratitude should bear a proportion to our blessings—Our love to God, and our obedience to his perfect laws, it will be reasonably expected, should as much surpass the love and obedience of others, in point of fervor, constancy, and purity, as our advantages and mercies exceed theirs—And thus to estimate and improve our mercies is the only way to secure their continuance.—Our national and individual sins, under our advantages, will be attended with peculiar aggravations—Let this consideration operate as a powerful dissuasive from sins of every kind—and excite us to an upright conduct, as men, as citizens, and as Christians.

In our present situation, loaded and distinguished as we are, by various blessings—we have need to beware that our hearts be not lifted up with pride and self-conceit, as though we were the peculiar favourites of heaven, and the most deserving of all the nations of the earth.  From such arrogance in our prosperity, may the Lord preserve us!—It is the nature of prosperity to fill the mind with vain glory, self-importance, and self-complacency—to make men feel independent of their fellow-men, and even of their God.—To keep our minds properly balanced and humble, when things go well with us as a nation, or as individuals, we should constantly bear in mind, that it is not we ourselves, but the Lord our God, that maketh us rich, and causeth us to be prosperous and happy.—Besides, prosperity in this world does not always mark the best nations or the best men.  Moses declares to the Israelites, that it was not for their righteousness, or the uprightness of their heart, that Canaan was given to them, but because of the wickedness of the nations who inhabited it, and to fulfill a promise to their fathers—“Understand therefore, said he, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness, for thou art a stiff-necked people.”[xxxix]—Let the consideration that this same language, can with truth be addressed to us, serve to humble us in the midst of our joy—and to qualify our rejoicing with a due proportion of trembling for our unworthiness.

Blest with a free and efficient government, a flourishing commerce, good credit, a fine and but partially settled country, and at peace with all the world—the United States offer, if not the only, probably the best asylum for the oppressed and persecuted by civil and ecclesiastical tyranny—Hither thousands of useful artisans and others, have already taken refuge from the calamities which afflicted their own country—By a strict adherence to the government, laws, and religious institutions of our country—may we evince to the world around us, their superior excellency, and cause them to say of us—“Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”  Thus may we “render this country more and more a safe and propitious asylum for the unfortunate of other countries.”

Let us take heed, and keep our souls diligently, lest we forget the great things which God hath done for us, and the impression of our obligations to him for them, be effaced from our hearts.  Let us cherish their memory by teaching them to our children—that they may know and learn to estimate the immense value of the blessings which are, we hope, to be their future inheritance.

If the great body of the citizens throughout these American States, are well informed in respect to their rights and liberties, it will be difficult, if not impossible for ambitious, designing men, to wrest them from them.  If ever Americans are enslaved, the sad revolution will be preceded by a prevalence of ignorance among the middling and poorer classes of men.  As, then, we value the blessings of a free and equal government for ourselves, and our posterity—let us use our influence separately, and jointly, “to extend true and useful knowledge,” among very class of people—and “to diffuse and establish,” in our own families respectively, and among the youth in general, “habits of sobriety, order, morality and piety.”—We cannot leave a better legacy to our country than a family of well educated children.

As God hath made of one blood all nations to dwell on the face of the earth—they are all brethren of the same great family.  It is the part of a good man to possess the feelings of a brother towards the whole human race—and to be concerned for their happiness.—It becomes us, therefore, not to confine our benevolent regards to the narrow circle of our particular friends, to our town, our state, or even to our country; but to feel a glow of affectionate good will for all men of every nation, religion and character, on earth; and to unite in one sincere and fervent petition to the Great Ruler of Nations, “THAT HE WOULD IMPART ALL THE BLESSINGS WE POSSESS, OR ASK FOR OURSELVES, TO THE WHOLE FAMILY OF MANKIND.”

To conclude—What people, in any age or country, ever had greater reasons for gratitude and joy, either from the real enjoyment, or the prospect, of great and good things, than the inhabitants of the United American States, at the present moment?—We have a healthful, extensive, and fruitful country, equal to the support of the largest Empire that ever existed on earth—We have Constitutions of Government confessedly as good, as any ever formed by man, and as well administered—and with as fair prospects of permanency—The civil blessings which flow from good government, we feel in all their variety, and to a degree probably beyond any other nation—We have a Religion, and a free enjoyment of it—against which the gates of hell shall never prevail—whose institutions and precepts are wisely calculated to promote peace on earth and good-will among men—which unfolds to us the wonderful plan of Redemption by Jesus Christ, and brings life and immortality to light—With such a COUNTRY—such a GOVERNMENT—and such a RELIGION—if we are but wise to improve the advantages they furnish, and God vouchsafes to us his blessing—what that is great and ennobling to human nature, may we not expect?—“The wide, the unbounded prospect lies before us”—“Here let” us “hold”—and while the impression is warm on our hearts, let us with one consent, offer up a cloud of grateful incense, through Christ, to the Father of Mercies—unbounded in his love, and infinite in goodness—to whom be glory forever,

A M E N.

[i] Deut. i. 3.

[ii] Deut. xxxiv. 7.

[iii] President Washington entered his 64th year, Feb. 22, 1795—being born Feb. 11, (O. S.) 1732.

[iv] Deut. xxxiii. 29.

[v] Psalm cxlvii. 20.

[vi] The Jacobins are here alluded to.  That they deserve to be called sanguinary  men, will appear from the following extracts:–“A deputation from the section of the Champs Elysees, presented an Address, on the 23d of November, felicitating the Convention on the decree against the remnant of the Dictator’s (Robespierre’s) faction, sitting at the Jacobins, and against those individuals, who, like the old privileged Orders, retained only the name of their predecessors, without one of their virtues—and exhorting the Representatives of the people to crush those venomous reptiles, who were swollen into notice only by the innocent blood with which they had gorged themselves.”

To this address, Glauzel, the President, replied, “The National Convention has declared unextinguishable war against all the factions, all the intriguers, all the advocates of terror, all the depredators of the publick fortune, and all the enemies of the people, whatever mask they may assume.  The reign of virtue and justice is arrived:  it is on these bases that the national representation will found the Republick, which is to render the French happy.  While Capet existed, the Jacobins saved the publick weal by their energy; their hall was then the residence of virtue; they hastened the destruction of the tyrant.  But in overturning the throne, the Convention had sworn to annihilate tyranny.  Since the 27th of July, the society of the Jacobins had attempted to rival the national representation; it had become the resort of the factious—of the agitators—it was therefore the duty of the representatives of a free people, true to their oath, to shut up a place polluted by guilt.”  The Herald, Vol. I. No. 73.

In answer to a similar address, from the Popular Society of Chartres, congratulating the Convention on the decree for shutting up the Jacobin Club—the President said—“The majesty of the people, like a wave which drowns vile reptiles, has dispersed its enemies.  The Convention knows how to repress all those who take the names of lions, leopards, and tigers.  They will have only men.”  Centinel, Vol. XXII. No. 45.

[vii] See Gregoire’s celebrated Report on the destruction wrought by Vandalism, and on the means of repressing it—made August 31, 1794, in the Convention of France.  The Vandals (whence the expressive term Vandalism) were one of those barbarous nations, inhabiting the inhospitable regions of the North, who, like a torrent, overwhelmed the Roman empire, making havock of books, elegant temples, statues, pictures, and all the rich and superb monuments of learning and the arts.  It appears from the report referred to above, that the same destructive, barbarous scene was acted over again in France, during the tyranny of Robespierre.  “Do not think it exaggeration,” says Gregoire, “when you are told, that the names only of the articles purloined, destroyed, or wasted, would form many volumes.”—To such lengths did they proceed in their havock of literature and the arts, as to propose that “all who cherish the arts should be destroyed”—that “all rare animals should be killed, that the citizens might not spend their time at the museum, in viewing natural history”—that “the national library should be burnt”—that the words, “men of science” and “aristocrats,” should be considered “as synonymous.”  Dumas said “it was necessary to guillotine all men of genius and wit.”—And this cry was attempted to be raised in the sections, “guard against that man, for he has made a book.”

[viii] A decree of amnesty passed the National Convention, Dec. 2, 1794, declaring that “All persons in the precinct of the armies of the West, and of the Northern coast, now under the denomination of Rebels of la Vende and Chouans, who shall lay down their arms, within the next month from the publication of this decree, shall not afterwards be prosecuted, on account of their revolt.”

                  Gen. Duterre announced, as effects of the above decree, “that the system of justice and humanity, adopted in La Vendee, promised a speedy end to the war in that quarter, and that the rebels were daily surrendering, saying, Since you have pulled down the scaffolds, we abjure fighting against our brothers.

                  “La Vendee,” says Dubois Crance, “now produces 500,000 oxen and mules less than before the Revolution; and a million acres of land, formerly cultivated, now lies waste.”  Such have been the destructive effects of their rebellion.

[ix] The following extracts are here introduced in justification of the phrase—barbarous and shocking executions of the innocent—and to shew the great impropriety and absurdity of approving and justifying, in universal and undistinguishing terms, the conduct of part of the French nation—conduct, at the recital of which (to use their own emphatical language) “Nature shudders—reason is confounded—and liberty covers herself with the mantle of mourning.”

In the “Bill of accusation, drawn up against fourteen members of the revolutionary committee of Nantes, confined at Paris, and exhibited to them by the Publick Accuser, Lebois, Oct. 19”—it is declared, that

“Whatever is most barbarous in cruelty—whatever is most persidious in guilt—whatever is most dreadful in extortion—and whatever is most shocking in depravity, compose the accusation of the members and commissioners of the revolutionary committee of Nantes.

“In the most remote records of the world, in all the pages of history, even of the barbarous ages, scarcely would be found, any traits which come near to the horrors committed by the accused.  Nero was less sanguinary, Phalaris less barbarous, and Syphanes less cruel!”

To verify his charge, he states, among other things—that “On the 15th Frimaire, 132 new victims were devoted to death.  Order was given to shoot them; and it was Goulain, Grandmaison and Mainguet, who signed this order, which still exists in its original form.

“On the night between the 24th and 25th Frimaire, 129 prisoners, taken at hazard, and torn from the prisons, bound, pinioned, dragged to the harbor, embarked in a boat, and plunged into the river.  Goulain held the fatal list, Foly bound he unhappy victims, and Grandmaison threw them headlong into the Loire.  The project was decreed in the Committee, and the orders given by the members.  Mainguet allows that he signed them;–Grandmaison acknowledges that he caused the victims to be thrown into the river; and Goulain presided at this dreadful execution, which confounded at once the guilty and the innocent, which destroyed all the sacred rights of nature, violated those of liberty, and darkened the fairest days of her reign with a cloud of blood.

“Never will the hand of time efface the impression of the enormities committed by these atrocious men.  The Loire will always flow with blood-stained waters, and the foreign mariner will not arrive without trembling on the coasts covered with the carcases of victims sacrificed by barbarity, and which the indignant waves will have disgorged on those shores.

“Drunk with blood and wine, these cannibals scarcely knew their victims, and their eyes refused to read the traces of their crimes.

“In order to accomplish these crimes, it was necessary to associate with themselves persons of the most depraved principles: They form a revolutionary company:  They choose accomplices of the most atrocious character; and Goulain was not ashamed to ask—If villains still more depraved were to be found?”  The Herald, Vol. I. No. 77.

Extracts from the Trial of Carrier.

“Petit, substitute of the Publick Accuser, read a list of 42 persons drowned in Bourg Neuf, of whom one was an old man of 79 years, twelve women, twelve girls, and fifteen children, five of whom were at the breast, and others from five to six years old—by Carrier’s orders.

“Mergault declared, that two volunteers, who lodged at his house at Nantes, used to go out with their arms, and every day shoot  a hundred of the insurgent prisoners, who were confined in a large enclosure.  The volunteers told him, that it was by Carrier’s orders.

“The Chief Judge asked Carrier, if he recollected the child of 13 years old, whom he condemned, and who said to the executioner, “You will hurt me very much.”—The guillotine cut his head in the middle.  Or if he recollected the death of the publick Executioner at Nantes, who died with horror, after having executed (without trial) the five sisters by the name of Metairie, the eldest 28, the youngest 17 years old—together with their maid, of 22.”  Centinel.

We are happy to add, that justice has triumphed over these monsters—that the reign of terror has ceased in a great measure—that a spirit of humanity and moderation is prevailing, and “the national character” of the French, “is re-appearing.”

[x] Reported to amount to 1,200,000 men.

[xi] The rejection of the Christian Religion in France is less to be wondered at, when we consider, in how unamiable and disgusting a point of view it has been there exhibited, under the hierarchy of Rome.  When peace and a free government shall be established, and the people have liberty and leisure to examine for themselves, we anticipate, by means of the effusions of the Holy Spirit, a glorious revival and prevalence of pure, unadulterated Christianity.—May the happy time speedily come!

[xii] The following facts, illustrative of this assertion, were lately stated to the Convention by Dubois Crance.—“Silk stuffs, to the value of two hundred millions of livres, were formerly manufactured at Lyons from the raw material of the value of twelve millions.  This manufacture of silk was totally ruined by the severe decrees against Lyons, under the Jacobin administration.  Great part of the wealthy merchants and manufacturers, were proscribed or guillotined, and their property seized.  The number of victims sacrificed in that city alone, was upwards 4500.  The silk weavers were driven from their occupations, and compelled to collect their sustenance from the ruins of the houses of the rich, a great part of which were destroyed, by order of the Club government.  Ten thousand of the workmen in the fine cloth manufactures of Sedan, are nearly destitute of employment.”  It is with satisfaction we add—that since the fall of the Jacobin faction, three thousand merchants, manufacturers and artisans, have returned to France, through Switzerland, and resumed their labours.”—Should moderation continue to prevail, others, no doubt, will follow, and the state of manufactures will assume a more pleasing aspect.  The Herald, Vol. I. No. 68.

[xiii] The state of the nation, in respect to their finances, may be judged of by the following:–The expenditure, according to Mr. Neclaer, exceeded the revenue, in 1789, 56,239,000 livres, equal to L.2,343,291 sterling.

[xiv] See Note on Vandalism, p. 11.

[xv] The following are the Author’s sentiments respecting the French Revolution, expressed in a sermon delivered on the day of Publick Thanksgiving, Nov. 20, 1794, and here inserted by desire.

“Liberty is the birth-right of all mankind; but few of them, comparatively, enjoy it.  It has been wrested from them by the various artifices of wicked and designing men, and kept concealed from their view.  They have been held in various kinds and degrees of slavery, and knew not that they had a right to be free.  But the scales of ignorance are fast dropping from their eyes.  Whole nations have risen, determined to maintain their rights.  Where that genuine liberty, which is the right of every man, has been their object, and the measures pursued to attain it have been commendable, and such as heaven approves, as lovers of mankind, we cannot but rejoice most sincerely, in their success.  This is the bound which I conceive ought to limit our joy and gratitude to Heaven, on account of those nations who are contending for their rights.  Their cause is unquestionably good; their errors and irregularities, however, proceeding almost necessarily from the magnitude and the difficulties of their undertaking, are not to be justified, nor yet too severely censured.  All circumstances taken into view, they ought, perhaps, in a great measure, to be excused.  But for their cruelties, and especially for their impieties, we can find no adequate excuse.  It would discredit the best of causes, with every good man, to blend such cruelties and impieties with it, and to make them accessory to, and auxiliaries in, its promotion.  While then we offer up our thanks to God, this day, for the progress of real liberty, in opposition to tyranny and oppression, in whatever quarter of the world this progress has been made, let us carefully separate between the precious and the vile, and not rejoice for that which ought to fill our hearts with sorrow and mourning.”

[xvi] The Marquis La Fayette, at the age of 19, espoused, with ardour, the cause of America; and at a very early period of the war, determined to embark for the United States.  Before he could effect his departure, intelligence arrived, that the American rebels, reduced to 2000 men, were flying through the Jerseys, before a British force of 30,000 regulars.  This news so effectually  extinguished the little credit which America had in Europe, in the beginning of the year 1777, that the Commissioners of Congress at Paris, though they had previously encouraged this project of Fayette, could not procure a vessel to forward his intentions.  Under these circumstances, they thought it but honest to dissuade him from the present prosecution of his perilous enterprise.  It was in vain they acted so candid a part.  The flame which America had kindled in his breast, could not be extinguished by her misfortunes.  “Hitherto,” said he, “I have only cherished your cause—now I am going to serve it.  The lower it I in the opinion of the people, the greater will be the effect of my departure; and since you cannot procure a vessel, I shall purchase and fit out one to carry your dispatches to Congress, and myself to America.”  He accordingly embarked, and arrived at Charleston, early in the year 1777.  Congress soon conferred on him the rank of Major-General.  He accepted the appointment, not however without exacting two conditions, which displayed a noble and generous spirit—the one, that he should serve at his own expense—the other, that he should begin his services as a volunteer.  See Amer. Geog. 2d edit. P. 136.

[xvii] Against Poland.

[xviii] The Herald, Vol. 1. No. 71.

This sketch of the present state of Great-Britain, was written and published in England, as late as Nov. 14, 1794, by a writer under the signature of Junius Redivivus.  He appears to be no friend to the “political system” of the French—and advocates vigorous measures to oppose the progress of what, in his view, disorganizing principles.  We conclude from these and other circumstances, that he was a friend to his country, and would not knowingly exaggerate its calamitous state.

[xix] I take leave here to introduce a comparative view of the National Debts of Great-Britain and the United States, which, with the observations annexed, will shew the present-eligible situation of the latter compared with that of the former, and with that of Europe at large.


Dols.                 Cts.

Principal of the English Debt, in 1785,                                       239,154,880, sterl. or                1062,910,577.          80

Interest and charges for management,                                              9,275,769,           or                  41,225,640.          —

Chalmers Estimate of the Comparative Strength

of Great Britain, p. 159

Since 1785, the National Debt of Great-Britain is said to have increased to upwards of THREE HUNDRED MILLIONS sterling—the interest of which, together with the civil list, secret service money, &c. &c. require a yearly revenue of upwards of seventeen MILLIONS.  See Rev. Mr. Channing’s Thanksgiving Sermon, of Nov. 27, 1794, p. 17.


Dols.                 Cts.

Principal of Domestick Debt at the close of 1794, consisting of unfunded—

Six per cent.—three per cent, and deferred stock,                                                                              64,825.538.          70

Total interest, payable annually by the contract existing at the close of the year 1794,               2,405,272.          60

Total Foreign Debt, due to the French Government, and at Amsterdam and

Antwerp, about                                                                                                                                         14,708,000.           —

Interest on foreign loans, as due 31st Dec. 1794,                                                                            678,102.                   80

Total Debt, principal and interest,              72,616,914.           10

Secretary Hamilton’s Report, of Jan. 7, 1795.

If we reckon the Debt of Great-Britain as it stood in 1785, the difference between that, and ours, is upwards of One thousand and thirty-one millions of dollars.  The actual difference, at the present time, is probably a third more.  There is this further striking difference, theirs is rapidly increasing—ours is decreasing.


In the United States, the average proportion of his earnings which each citizen pays for the support of the civil, military, and naval establishments, and for the discharge of the interest of the publick debts of his country, is about one dollar and a quarter, equal to two days labour, nearly:  that is, five millions of dollars to four millions of people.  In Great-Britain, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, &c, the taxes for these objects, on an average, amount to about six dollars and a quarter to each person.  Hence it appears, that in the United States, we enjoy the blessings of free government and mild laws; of personal liberty and protection of property, for one fifth part of the sum, for each individual, which is paid in Europe for the purchase of publick benefits of the same nature, and too generally without attaining their objects; for less than one fifth indeed, as in European countries, in general, ten days’ labour do not amount to six dollars and a quarter.  In this estimate, proper allowances are made for publick debts.

From the best data that can be collected, the taxes in the United States, for county, town, and parish purposes, for the support of schools, the poor, roads, &c. appear to be considerably less than in those countries; and perhaps the objects of them, except in roads, is attained in a more perfect degree.  Great precision is not to be expected in these calculations; but we have sufficient documents to prove that we are not far from the truth.  The proportion in the United States is well ascertained; and with equal accuracy in France, by Mr. Necker; and in England, Holland, Spain, and other nations in Europe, by him, Zimmermann, and other writers on the subject.

This statement, at the same time that it evinces the eligible and prosperous situation of the United States, shews how large a proportion of their earnings, the people in general can apply to their private purposes.      See American Universal Geography, p. 250.

[xx] The Netherlands are divided into two parts—distinguished by Northern and Southern divisions.  The Northern contains the Seven United Provinces, usually known by the name of Holland,–2,758,632 inhabitants in 1785.  The Southern contains the Austrian and French Netherlands,–1,500,000 inhabitants.

[xxi] Perfected May 3d.

[xxii] The Leyden Gazette of March 4th, 1794, states—that “Baron Ingelstrom, Minister Plenipotentiary, and Commander in Chief of the armies of the Empress of Russia, has transmitted a Note to the permanent Council of Poland, requiring them to collect all the acts and decrees of the Revolutionary Diet of 1791, from all the provinces of Poland, and to put them under seal in the custody of the permanent Council.”  He closes this most extraordinary requisition, intended to blot out the annals of their happy Revolution, by saying, “He has no doubt the wisdom of his motives will command a ready reception of this order, and an approbation proportioned to the importance of the object.”

                  The same Gazette further states, that the Empress is endeavouring to rivet her chains, and to put it forevr out of the power of wretched Poland to throw off the yoke, by gradually reducing the Polish army, and by melting down the cannon which the Revolutionary Diet had procured.   The Herald, Vol. 1. No. 4.

On the 16th of April following, Baron Ingelstrom sent another Note to the King and permanent Council, “requiring that the arsenal of Warsaw should be delivered up to him—the Polish military be disarmed, and that 20 persons, mostly of consideration, should be arrested, and if found guilty, punished with death.”

The effect of this singular Note was a violent and bloody insurrection at Warsaw—which opened the dreadful scene of war, since exhibited, and which, after destroying several hundred thousand people, and entailing poverty and wretchedness on as many more, is likely to have a most melancholy termination.

The following is an extract from a Treaty of cession, signed (by constraint) in the name of Poland, in favour of Russia, at Grodno, July 13, 1793—Translated from the Leyden Gazette.

The second article determines “the limits which shall hereafter forever separate the empire of Russia and the kingdom of Poland.”  The boundary line described cuts off a large part of Poland, bordering on Russia, inhabited by three millions and a half of people.  “This line above determined,” says the treaty, “to serve forever as a boundary between the empire of Russia and the kingdom of Poland—his Majesty, the King, &c. cede in a manner of the most formal, the most solemn and the most obligatory, to her Majesty, the Empress of all the Russias, her heirs and successors, all that which ought in consequence to appertain to the Empire of Russia, and especially all the countries and districts, which the aforesaid line separates from the actual territory of Poland, with all the property, sovereignty and independence; with all the cities, fortresses, boroughs, villages, hamlets, rivers and waters, with all the vassals, subjects and inhabitants; releasing them from their homage and oath of fidelity, which they have taken to his Majesty and the crown of Poland; with all the rights, as well political and civil, as spiritual, and in general, with all that belongs to the sovereignty of those countries; and his said Majesty, the king and the republic of Poland, promises in a manner the most positive and solemn, never to form, either directly or indirectly, or under any pretext whatever, any pretension to the countries and provinces ceded by the present treaty.”  The Herald, Vol. 1. No. 17.

[xxiii] Stanislaus Augustus, the present King of Poland, is a most amiable, humane man—and has endeared his name to all lovers of liberty by his exertions for the freedom and happiness of his subjects. His speeches to the Diet, a few days after the forementioned treaty was signed, exhibit forcibly the feelings of a distressed, generous, paternal heart—“My own fate,” said he, “interests me the least; I have more than once offered to sacrifice myself for my country; but it is your fate that agitates my thoughts, and what is more important the fall of the nation—It is the duty of a Father who loves his children, to lay the plain truth before them, without any disguise—of this duty I have acquitted myself.”—In a second speech delivered on the same day, he says-“I have heard, with heart-felt grief, the vows of a virtuous citizen, who, before the last sitting, promised himself tears of compassion from his posterity, who will see upon his tomb, the name of him, who chose rather to die, than cease to call by the name of compatriots, those whom a foreign force has appropriated to itself. [Alluding to the three millions and a half of Poles consigned over to Russia, by treaty.]  I dare hope in my turn, that when I shall appear before the great Judge, to whom I appeal for the purity of my motives, those who shall live after me, will say,–“He was unfortunate, but he was not culpable.”  See these affecting speeches at large, in the Herald, Vol. 1. No. 16.

[xxiv] Kosciusko.  This General was in America during our Revolution, and is well known to many of our officers.  Here, as the pupil of Washington, “he was confirmed in the principles of liberty, endured its toils, and learned to” fight “ in its defense.”  He was placed by his countrymen, at the head of their armies, and he often led them to victory.  At length, overpowered by numbers, and covered with wounds, he was taken prisoner, with a part of his army, and, under a strong guard of 3000 men, conducted to Petersburgh, where our latest accounts leave him.

[xxv] Accounts under the London head of Jan. 3d, 1795, state—that the Russian army under Gen. Suwarow, in the course of 52 days from the 17th of Sept. fought six battles, in which were slain 28,500 Poles.—How dreadful must the carnage appear, when we take into the account the exploits of Fersen, and the rest of the Russian Generals—and of the Prussian army?     Mercury, No. 16, Vol. V.

In the engagement on the 4th of Nov. (1794) at Praga, on the banks of the Vistula, 20,000 Poles perished by the sword, the fire and the water.  In the suburb of Praga, 12,000 inhabitants of both sexes, and all ages, were the victims of the first fury of the Russians, who massacred all that they met, without distinction of age, sex or quality.    Centinel, Vol.XXII. No. 49.

Another account of the capture of Warsaw, by way of Vienna, states—that “the besieged consisted of 40,000 men, amongst whom were 7000 Prussians; and the massacres committed by the Cossacks upon men, women and children, are too horrible for description.

[xxvi] Its inhabitants are estimated at 30,000.

[xxvii] See a brief Account of the Origin and Progress of the Revolution in Geneva—written in letters, by a Genevese gentleman.  This well written afflicting narration, is well worth perusal.

[xxviii] See the Emperor’s edict, issued Oct. 28, 1794, to the Directors of the Circles of the Empire, containing an exhortation, &c. &c.—The third article of this exhortation is thus expressed—

“His Imperial Majesty expects that no state will shew, from individual interest, or from any other false principles, any backwardness against contributing to the general defence of the Empire.  His Majesty would never have manifested any suspicions respecting this point, if unfortunately experience had not shewn him, that from the time the increase of the army had been determined to be triple the number of the former establishment, that the measure has not yet been accomplished to the present day.”

[xxix] The common estimate of human inhabitants on the globe, has been 950 millions—500 millions of which are apportioned to Asia.  This estimate, I conceive, to be in a great measure conjectural, and very erroneous.  There is a mistake of more than 100 millions in America.

[xxx] Abbe Raynal’s History of the Indies, Vol. 1. P. 50.

[xxxi] Ibid. Vol. 1. P. 131.

[xxxii] Ibid. Vol. 1. P. 186.

[xxxiii] Encyc. Art. China.

[xxxiv] According to the Indian Code—“A husband in distress, may deliver up his wife, if she consent; and a father may fell his son, if he have several”—That is—A mother of a family may be reduced to the condition of a prostitute,–and a son to that of a slave—“If a man kill an animal, such as a horse, a goat or a camel, one hand, and one foot shall be cut off from him”—Thus man is, by the laws, put upon a par with the brute creation.

The Indian Code says, “That a woman should by no means be mistress of her own actions; for if she have her own free will, she will always behave amiss”—“A woman shall never go out of the house without the consent of her husband”—“It is proper for a woman, (except under certain circumstances) after her husband’s death, to burn herself in the fire with his corpse—Every woman who thus burns herself, shall remain in paradise with her husband, an infinite number of years by destiny.”

“If a man strike a Bramin” or Priest “with his hand, or his foot, he shall have his hand or foot cut off.”—“If a Sooder or man of the fourth cast, be convicted of reading the Beids or sacred books, he shall have boiling oil poured into his mouth, if he should listen to the reading of the Beids of the Shafter, then oil, heated as before, shall be poured into his ears, and the orifice of his ears shall be stopped with melted wax”—“If a Sooder shall sit upon the carpet of a Bramin—the magistrate, having thrust a hot iron into his buttock, and branded him shall banish him the kingdom; or else he shall cut off his buttock—Whatever crime a Bramin shall commit, he shall not be put to death”—and his property is sacred and unalienable.  Raynal’s Hist. of the Indies.  Vol. 1. P. 66-71.

[xxxv] Raynal—Vol. I. p. 80-83.

[xxxvi] With Great-Britain.

[xxxvii] Under General Wayne.

[xxxviii] See the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, of Jan. 1795, containing “a plan for the further support of Publick Credit”—And the speech of Mr. Smith (S. C.) “on the subject of the Reduction of the Publick Debt”—December 1794—Published in a pamphlet.

[xxxix] Deut. ix. 5, 6.

Sermon – Election – 1815, Vermont

Henry Davis (1771-1852) graduated from Yale in 1796. He served as President of Middlebury College (1810-1817) and President of Hamilton College (1817-1833). This election sermon was delivered by Dr. Davis at Montpelier, VT on October 12, 1815.










Published by order of the Legislature.



ROMANS, xiii. 4.

For he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

At the period, when this epistle was written, Rome was sunk in gross idolatry, and her rulers were implacable enemies of the cross of Christ. The disciples of Jesus were despised and persecuted; and in many instances put to death by the most cruel and ignominious tortures.

The descendants of Abraham boasted themselves of their distinction. Because God had favoured them with peculiar privileges; had dictated to them a system of polity, both civil and religious; had anciently proclaimed himself their king; and in later times governed them by rulers of his own appointment. They arrogated to themselves exemption from the ordinances of men, and deemed it impious and degrading to submit to their authority. Many of them, after embracing Christianity, entertained still the same views and dispositions. And of the Gentiles, also, who had renounced their idols and devoted themselves to God, there were not a few, who vainly contended, that the spiritual wisdom, with which HE had endued them, was a sufficient directory for their conduct; and that they were under no obligation to render obedience to a government, which was imposed upon them by unbelieving rulers. By these means, their dangers and sufferings were increased, and the Gospel of Christ was evil spoken of.

In this chapter of his epistle, the Apostle shews them, in a manner clear and forcible, that their principles were erroneous, and their conduct reprehensible. He begins his address, by teaching them the foundation of civil government;–that it is the ordinance of God. Not indeed that it is, as to its form, of divine appointment; but that it is sanctioned by God as essential to man, both as to the security of his happiness, and to the performance of his duties; and that its obligations are sacred and universal. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers; for there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.

It is no matter then, what the genius or denomination of the government, or by what means established;–what the religion of the ruler, or the religion of the subject. The obligation to obedience is ever the same; for it is founded in the will of God, and the constitution of man; and is indispensable to the being of society.

But what, it will be asked, is the measure of this obedience? Or is it to be regarded as absolute and unconditional? Does the Apostle enjoin upon his Roman brethren the doctrine of non resistance, and, by this means, legalize tyranny? Does he establish a principle so abhorrent from reason and our feelings, that men are born to be slaves? That the will of the magistrate is his only law? That subjects have no method of redress under the most grinding oppression? And that to resist the encroachments of rulers is, in all circumstances, to resist the ordinance of God?

Doctrines and principles like these, are inconsistent with every enlightened sentiment of humanity, and directly repugnant both to the precepts and spirit of the Gospel. They deliver over the multitude to the caprice and ambition of a few, and bind them in chains.

That the Roman government was, at this period, immensely corrupt, and its subjects groaning under oppression, will not be questioned. But with this matter the Apostle had no concern. It was totally incompatible with the sacred objects of his mission. An interference, in the political concerns of the state, would have awakened against the disciples of Christ a most deadly jealousy and resentment. It would have provoked a spirit of universal extermination, and brought down upon them, in a manner still more dreadful, the vengeance of the civil arm.

The founder of Christianity had expressly taught his followers that his kingdom is not of this world. The great purpose of his manifestation in the flesh was, by the sacrifice of himself, to take away the sins of the world; to reveal to man his true character and condition; to increase and to enforce his motives to duty; and to make him wise unto salvation.

While the primary and ostensible object of the Apostle, in addressing the Roman brethren in the context, was to make them acquainted with their relation to civil government, and the universal obligation of obedience to it, he indirectly, yet obviously and forcibly, teaches the magistrate the nature and extent of his authority.

Having first declared that all power emanates from God; that civil government is ordained by God; and that every soul is bound to render obedience to it; he adds, For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

These considerations, it will be remembered, are urged by the Apostle on his brethren, as an additional argument for submission to the authority of the Roman magistrate. He does not attempt to shew them the character of the government under which they lived; but he teaches them plainly what ought to be its character. His meaning cannot be misapprehended. The government intended by him can be no other than a righteous government. A government which seeks the praise of God more than the praise of men; which aims steadily and inflexibly to protect and to encourage the obedient, and to chastise and to humble transgressors; which guards with equal care and solicitude the lives and privileges of all its subjects, and renders to everyone according to his character. No authority but such has God, who formed man for society, ordained to be exercised over him; and none but such can meet his approbation. If this be not the fact, the magistrate would be a terror to those who do well, and a praise to those who do evil.

The happiness of the people then is the sole object of civil government; the sole object for which anyone is invested with power, and for which he can exercise it; and the sole point, in which should centre, all his deliberations and all his exertions.

Such being the foundation of all civil institutions, of all legislative, judicial and executive authority, the conclusion is irresistible; that every nation has an unquestionable, a perfect right, to be governed by laws of its own making, and by rulers of its own choice; and that these laws and rulers it may change, as its circumstances may dictate.

And should those, who are appointed the guardians of its rights and the avengers of its injuries, trample upon the constitution; break over the boundaries of their authority, and wantonly sport with its privileges, they bear the sword in vain; they exonerate the subject from his obligation of allegiance to them, and arm him with an undoubted right to resist their aggressions. But whether resistance in a given case be expedient, circumstances must determine. If rights, essential to his security and happiness, are endangered, neither property, nor life, will be regarded in defence of them.

Every other foundation of civil government is a solecism of the grossest character, and will be embraced by none but tyrants and their slaves.

Standing on this elevated ground, invested with the sword of authority, as a minister of God for good to the people, and holding in his hand their destinies, highly interesting and responsible is the condition of the magistrate; and to trample upon the privileges of the citizens, or to sacrifice their happiness from motives of revenge, of avarice, or of ambition, is a sin of deep malignity, and cannot fail to provoke the vengeance of HIM, by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice.

In obedience to the voice of the supreme legislative authority of this commonwealth, I appear before them on this interesting occasion. God forbid that I should be unmindful of my duty, or profane the sacred office with which he hath honored me. To the character of a partisan, I disclaim all pretensions. As a member of the community, I feel, and I trust I ever shall feel, a deep interest in its welfare. But in the political questions, by which the public mind is agitated, and in which many great and good men, whom I have the honor to number among my friends, are at variance in opinion. I have no active concern. I stand in this consecrated place, as a minister of Christ, as bound by the covenant of God to deal plainly with my fellow sinners, whenever called to speak to them in HIS name, however elevated their condition.

For addressing this assembly on the duties of rulers, I need make no apology. For men of this character I am called to address. Would to God that what is to be delivered may be followed with his blessing; that it may prove useful to us all; but especially to those who are immediately concerned;–that it may excite them to fidelity in the important trust committed to them;–and that it may be found, when we shall all stand at the tribunal of God, that they have not born the sword in vain.

The language of the text is highly expressive and emphatical. The sword is introduced as an emblem of authority; and it implies that those who are invested with this authority are to exercise it with energy. But as ministers of God, as his vicegerents among men, they are not to lord it over his heritage.

Like the government of that GREAT and GOOD BEING in whose name they act, all their measures should be characterized by justice and tempered with mercy.

The necessity of civil government arises from our depravity. Had not man lost the uprightness, in which God created him, no civil restraints would have been necessary. Injustice and violence, wars and fightings, which proceed from his lusts and passions, would never have been heard of. The earth would never have been cursed with thorns and briars; and creation would still have smiled with the innocence and loveliness of paradise. But God, whose judgments are a mighty deep, and whose ways are past finding out, hath suffered man to fall from this elevated standing. The image of his Maker, which he once bore on his soul, hath departed from him. Sin hath entered the world, and confusion, and injustice, and violence are its consequences. To shield mankind, as far as possible, from these evils is the great end of all civil associations. And Christians who are called to bear the sword, are under sacred obligations, as ministers of God,

I. To make his word the guide of their conduct. The will of God is the only unerring rule of righteousness; and nowhere, excepting in his word, is HIS will clearly and satisfactorily revealed to us. Revelation is a transcript of the perfections and purposes of that ALMIGHTY and GLORIOUS BEING, who is the creator, the upholder, and the governor of all things.

In the word of God, and here only, are we taught the true origin, the real condition, the real character, and the high destiny of man. It is here, and nowhere else, that we are taught, with certainty, the nature of those capacities which God hath given him; that he is a being of other hopes than those of the present life; that he has interests, hereafter to be realized, whose value no calculation can reach; and that his residence on earth is the only season allotted him, for securing those interests. We here learn, that rulers, however exalted their talents and their rank, have the same infirmities, the same propensities and the same interests, as other men; that as moral beings their elevation entitles them to no prerogative; and that they are equally bound to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. Do unto others as you would they should do unto you, is a command of universal authority, and not less obligatory on the magistrate, than on the citizen. Saith the voice of inspiration, He that ruleth over men should be just, ruling in the fear of God.

When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice; but when the wicked bear rule, the people mourn.

Were the precepts of the Gospel universally regarded by rulers, and its spirit imbibed by them, vastly different would be the condition of mankind. It is granted, that among pagan nations, there have been men of exalted views and sentiments; men, who have postponed to their country’s good all private considerations; who have undauntedly faced danger and death, and cheerfully sacrificed their all to its honor and security. And it is not to be disputed, that in countries also, where Christianity has diffused its blessings, many have been found of a similar character; notwithstanding they denied its authority, and rejected its instructions.

But how many Alexanders, Caesars, and Caligulas, has the world witnessed, to one Titus, or Marcus Aurelius? And how many Neroes and Frederics of Prussia, to one Alfred, or to one Washington.

Infidelity is overreaching, overbearing and hard hearted. Its own aggrandizement is its only object. It wantonly sports with the dearest interests of society; and is prodigal of the blood of man, as of no value, when set in competition with its unhallowed desires.

Banish from the mind those solemn truths, with which revelation presents us, and all enquiries, respecting the future, are perplexed with doubt and uncertainty. Every tie of conscience, which should bind man to his duty, is sundered. Earth becomes the limit of his desires, and self promotion the centre of his exertions. And unless restrained by the fear of God, in proportion as his opportunities for subserving his own interest are increased, in the same proportion, is his danger also, of being given up to the control of such motives. Is the correctness of these remarks doubted? Let them be tried by the records of ages. How happens it, if this ignorance, or forgetfulness, of God and our duty, and this devotion to our own interest be not the cause, that the history of nations is little else than a history of revolutions of rimes and of cruelties?

How happens it, that the multitude have been the slaves of a few; that in obedience to the authors of these changes and sufferings, they have yielded up as a sacrifice, their peace, their fortunes, and their lives? And, indeed, for what other reason is it, that almost every family in Europe is now setting in sackcloth, and that her hills and her plains are one field of blood?

But let conscience, enlightened by revelation, perform its office; let rulers keep in view the commanding truths of the Gospel; let them remember that they are ministers of God; that they are accountable to HIM;–that they are entrusted with power, not to harass, to oppress, and to enslave; but to promote the peace, the virtue, and the happiness of their people; let them bear in mind the judgment to come, and the retributions of eternity; and they will have before them motives to duty that are always binding, always operative. Truth and righteousness become the pole-star of their actions; and the fascinations of power, the emoluments of office, the pomp of triumphs and of victories, and the splendors of crowns, and of diadems, vanish into nothing. It must be acknowledged, that God hath not, in his works, left himself without witness; that the honest enquirer, be his condition what it will, may, from this source, learn much of his duty and interest. But shall be for this reason reject the instructions of revelation? Would not the mariner justly be thought a mad man, who should throw into the deep his compass and chart, and be guided only by the signs and stars of heaven?

II. It is the duty of rulers to establish such laws and regulations, as are adapted to the genius and circumstances of the people.

To give strength, and peace, and security, to the community will be primary objects with every benevolent and enlightened legislator.

But these objects cannot be accomplished, without a knowledge of mankind, in general, and of the characters, relations, and necessities, of the governed, in particular. A fundamental truth in legislation is, that man, find him where you will, is a depraved being; and governed by motives, which often lead him to sacrifice the rights and happiness of others to his own interest. In consequence of rejecting this truth, or of not acting under the conviction of it, men of high distinction in intellect and attainments, have, when writing on the subject of laws and government, fallen far short of the expectations, which their talents had excited. Not regarding man as he really is, but assuming it, as a first principle, that he is rather what he ought to be, their systems, plausible enough in theory, have proved defective in experiment; and have soon sunk, with the authors of them, into neglect and oblivion. In every government, not cursed with tyranny, where men are left to think, and to act, for themselves, wise rulers, in all their measures, will be influenced by a reference to public opinion; and this opinion, it will be remembered, is, usually regulated by public interest.

The physical strength resides in the people; and whenever they are sensible of their power, and have opportunity to exert it, it is in vain to attempt to enforce laws upon them, however wise and salutary, which, in the view of the majority, are incompatible with their interests. I would by no means insinuate that this remark is universally true. I acknowledge that there are some honorable exceptions. I should rejoice were there more. But, as a general remark, it is fully attested by experience, and will not be questioned.

Many writers, far from being contemptible in understanding and in their acquirements, and who had spent much of their time in discussing the science of government, seemed to have imagined, that the views, the desires and the pursuits, of men, and the motives that actuate them, are, in all places, like the laws of the physical world, uniform and invariable; that a constitution adapted to the genius and circumstances of one nation, might, with equal propriety, be applied to any other; that the philosophers of Europe may form laws and regulations, for the aborigines of Asia, or of America, with the same confidence of success, as when attempting to account for the variety of their complexions, or of the climate and productions of their countries.

No principle is, in theory, more deceptive, and few have proved, in experiment, more mischievous. Although man, in every condition of society, is a being of corrupt propensities, and must be governed by restraints, yet, it is not to be forgotten, that every nation have their peculiarities; their own habits of feeling, of thinking and of acting; their own passions, their own interests, their own arts and employments; and the man, who attempts to legislate for any people, without a reference to this fact, will legislate in vain.

With a conviction of these truths, the prevention of crimes, by the establishment of salutary laws, will, in the view of every humane and intelligent government, be a primary object. But as men, abandoned of principle, will be found in every community, whom no threats will intimidate, and who cannot, by any vigilance and foresight, be effectually prevented from preying upon the innocent and defenceless; from disturbing the tranquility of the public, and endangering its security; it will ever be found necessary to restrain them by punishment. Examples must be made of transgressors, and be held up, as a terror, to those who would do evil.

With reference to this subject, the philanthropist looks, with emotions of regret, on the generations that are past. While he sees the arts and sciences improving, and the condition of man, in almost every other respect, gradually meliorating, it is with surprise, he perceives, in the methods of inflicting punishment, little improvement attempted, and little or no melioration, taking place.

The consequences of punishment, as they affect the future conduct of the offender, seem scarcely to have been regarded. Nothing appears, in general, to have been thought of, but the infliction of suffering, as an example to others; and the penalties inflicted have obviously been, in most instances, of such a character, as tend directly to make the subject of them more the servant of iniquity.

To expose the criminal in the stocks, or in the pillory, to the ridicule, the contempt, and the insults of the populace; or to punish him publicly at the post, and to send him away writhing and bleeding, from the stroke of the lash, can have little other effect, than to provoke a spirit of revenge; to destroy whatever sense of shame, or regard for character, might have been remaining; and to harden him for acts of deeper guilt. But to stigmatise him, by branding, or cropping, and to send him forth into the world, like Cain from the presence of God, with a mark set upon him, declaring to all men, that he is an outcast from society, a villain, and never to be trusted, is placing him, at once, beyond the reach of all honest employment; consequently beyond the power of reformation; and compelling him to continue in the commerce of iniquity, and to remain a curse to society.

More correct and exalted views of this subject were reserved for our times; and the improvement which it has already received is, by no means, the most inconsiderable of the improvements, in which we have so much occasion to rejoice.

The method, which has been recently adopted, by some governments, of punishing criminals by confinement and labor, is a happy alleviation of the criminal code, and promises much good. Indeed, much good has been already produced by it. Considered merely as an example, as a terror to those who do evil, it has, I apprehend, a more powerful influence, than the expedients that have been usually resorted to. To the man hardened in the career of wickedness, hardly anything is more dreadful than solitude; where there is no human being to commune with, but himself, and where his vices and his crimes, in spite of every effort to prevent it, will pass in review before him. But in regard to the reformation of the offender, and to the good of society, there is no ground for comparison, as to the consequences. Corporal punishment has little other tendency than to confirm the criminal in transgression; while confinement for a season, at least, frees the community, from his crimes and example, and furnishes some reason for hope of his being restored to it, at length, a sound and useful member. Without deliberate and serious reflection upon his life, there are no hopes of his amendment; nor is a conviction of his folly and guilt likely to prove effectual, without long habituation to industry, and to a course of regular conduct. Long established habits must be supplanted, and new ones formed, before a reformation can be regarded, as complete and permanent. Confinement and labor afford, in the best possible manner, both these means of amendment.

This method is farther recommended, by the fact, that the criminal may here be furnished, with moral and religious instruction, with which it is evidently the duty of the government to furnish him; that his motives to industry may be increased, by granting him some portion of the avails of it; and that for his good conduct, he is presented with the encouragement of going again into the world, with a useful trade, and with an amended character. Were this expedient of punishment and reform universally adopted, and faithfully executed, there would, in my opinion, be strong grounds to hope, that one prolific source of evils of a very dangerous tendency, which now infest society, would, ere long, well-nigh cease to exist. I say faithfully executed;–for there is much reason to apprehend, that it may not prove effectual, by rendering the confinement of shorter duration, than is necessary to produce a permanent change of habits.

But let not rulers forget, in their zeal for reformation, that the dungeon and the gibbet are not to be abandoned; that villains will exist, in every community, of so hardened and daring a character, that no other means will intimidate them; and that deeds of such extreme malignity will be perpetrated, as render forbearance foolishness and mercy a crime.

III. It is the duty of those, who are entrusted with the care of the state, to diffuse useful knowledge among their subjects.

“In arbitrary governments,” saith a writer, “The more ignorance, the more peace—but intelligence is the life of liberty.” We have reason to thank God, that we live in an age in which the truth of this assertion will not be controverted.

The encouragement of those arts and improvements, which are calculated to increase the means of subsistence, and to give vigor, and independence, and respectability, to the body politic, should embrace the attention of every government. But the instruction of the mass of people, in what is essential to their comfort, and to their characters also, as industrious, peaceable, and useful citizens, cannot, I conceive, be neglected, but with high criminality.

It is in vain for rulers to urge, as an excuse, that it is the duty of parents to educate their children. Parents, who are ignorant, it must be remembered, are too apt to be satisfied that their children should remain so. Not knowing by experience the blessings of education, they are, in general, willing, that they should grow up in the same want of information, in which they have grown up, and inherit the same vices and wretchedness, which they themselves have been heirs too. Little can ordinarily be expected, from the exertions of individuals, whatever be their patriotism and liberality.

Unless those, therefore, who are the constituted guardians of the public interests, shall extend a fostering hand to this subject, we have much reason to fear that a people, who are once ignorant, will, generation after generation, continue to be ignorant. What must be the consequences, experience tells us; indolence and vice, and poverty, and crimes, of the most destructive tendency. Those who know not their duty, and their interest, know not, of course, how to estimate them; and without a due estimation of them, it is not to be expected that they will pursue them. Men of this character are always exposed to the intrigues of every aspiring demagogue, and may easily be rendered the instruments of turmoil and violence. And history distinctly informs, that this class of the community, under the direction of ambitious and unprincipled leaders, have acted no inconsiderable part in the revolutions which have agitated and distressed the world.

Let no man deny, then, that it is the duty of government to assume the superintendence of a subject of such vital importance to the public; that it should require of those, who are able to do it, to educate their children; and should provide for the education of those, whose parents are not able, at the expense of the State.

IV. It is the duty of rulers to guard and to improve the morals of the people.

In governments strictly absolute, where the will of the despot is law, and physical power the only arbiter of every question, this subject will be regarded as of little value. It may, indeed, be presumed, that the corruption of morals is, sometimes, the principal basis on which such a government rests. But not so in countries that are blessed with freedom. Good morals are the life-spring of its being. They are the pillars, on which the constitution rests. Remove them, and it falls to ruin. Corrupt the citizens of any state, not bound in chains of tyranny, and confusion and anarchy ensue; and they soon become fit for nothing, but the minions of a despot, or the slaves of arbitrary power.

Every vice is, in its nature, degrading and dangerous. But the vices, which are most degrading, and most fatal to the public welfare, and which most imperiously demand the restraints of government, are drunkenness, profane swearing, and Sabbath-breaking. For to one, or to another of these, almost every other corrupt practice, or crime may be traced, as its origin.

Intoxication stupefies the intellect; blunts the moral perceptions; breaks down, or weakens the barriers between right and wrong; degrades and brutalizes the whole man; and renders him, ordinarily, a judgment to himself. It destroys the peace, the comfort, and the character of his family. It begets wrangling and hunger, and nakedness. Upon his wife, once the object of his tender affections, to whom he is bound, by the vow of his God, to furnish support, and to administer consolation, it brings disgrace, and shame, and despair. It leaves his children, the fruit of his own loins, to grow up, without discipline, without instruction and without example, to walk in his steps, and to be partakers of his end.

On the community also, its influence is not less to be dreaded. It disturbs the peace of neighbors. It produces among them quarrels, and lawsuits, and violence. Like the pestilence that walketh in darkness, it spreads around its contagion, and corrupts, by a gradual and almost imperceptible progress, numbers, who viewed themselves as proof against its influence; ‘till, at last, they yield themselves to its dominion, and become a curse to society. What are the vices and crimes, for which they are then not prepared, I dare not attempt to say.

Profane swearing, of all the vices that disgrace the human character, is the most silly, the most contemptible, and the most inexcusable. For there can be no possible temptation to it. Were it silly, and contemptible, and without excuse merely, we might bear with it. But it possesses other traits of character, and such as cannot be contemplated without deep alarm. To treat with habitual levity and irreverence the name of that infinitely GREAT and GOOD BEING, in whom we live, move and have our existence, and who is constantly shedding around us such a profusion of blessings, is sinful in the extreme, is searing to the conscience, and dangerous to the dearest interests of the community. God is infinitely amiable, and infinitely lovely; and that they love him with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength, is his first command to all his intelligent creatures. It was disobedience to this command which filled heaven with disorder, and made this once peaceful and happy world a region of suffering, and the shadow of death. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain;–and what art thou, presumptuous worm of the dust, that thou shouldst contemn his authority, insult him with mockery and challenge the vengeance of the Majesty of Heaven? Were thy imprecations answered, what would be the doom of thyself and of thy fellows?

But he swears for the want of reflection, says his apologist. No harm is intended by him; and notwithstanding this blemish in his character, he still has many virtues.—That the man habitually profane has virtues, if the Gospel be our guide, I seriously doubt. That he may still have amiable qualities, and be, in many respects, a good citizen, I shall not deny.

But what is this want of reflection? When habits are once formed, we may commit any crime for want of reflection. The high-way robber assassinates the traveler, for want of reflection. The man, who makes gold, or honor, his God, may murder his neighbor, his friend, for want of reflection. And let me add, that, for want of reflection, the wretch, who is a slave to his passions, may plunge the fatal knife into the heart of his parent, of his child, or of the wife of his bosom.

Want of reflection is, in most instances, the incipient step, in every species of transgression. And the man who can deliberately, or thoughtlessly blaspheme his God, and invoke his curses upon himself or his fellow men, has not, it is to be feared, taken barely the first, the second, nor the third step, towards perjury.

Destroy the sanctity of the juror’s oath, and where are we? What security remains for our property, our reputation, or our lives? You free men from the restraints of conscience; you let them loose upon each other to harass and to destroy; and you render the earth which we inhabit a theatre of violence.

Ye ministers of God, who bear the sword! See then that those over which you have authority, venerate the name of that GREAT and TERRIBLE BEING, from whom your authority is derived. Slumber not on your seats; regard not, with indifference, a sin which cries to heaven for vengeance, and threatens to undermine the very being of the community. And let no man, who is habitually profane, boast of his love of country. For in the words of Rush, 1 “A profane and swearing patriot is not a less absurdity, than a profane and swearing Christian.”

The Sabbath, were there no world but this, is the most salutary, the most important, of all institutions. It is the grand palladium of everything valuable among men. Without it, good morals never have existed, and never will exist. To the utility of the Christian Sabbath, even infidels, have, and almost with one voice, been constrained to bear testimony. It is an institution highly propitious, both to man and to beast. Wherever it is sacredly regarded, more labor will be performed, and more real good produced, by the same number, possessing equal strength and opportunities, than where it is devoted wholly to secular pursuits. For arguments, in support of the importance of this subject, let us appeal to universal experience; and the instructions which it gives never will deceive us.

Where do you find, in the records of ages, a society or nation, who have not known, or have not venerated, the Sabbath, that have long remained peaceful, happy, or independent?

It is granted, that princes, professing themselves Christians, have been tyrants. That the religion of Jesus, in itself, gentle, benignant, and merciful, has, frequently, in the hands of aspiring men, been made a patron of ignorance and an engine of oppression. But no instance can be named, where the Sabbath has been regarded agreeably to the design of its author, in which it has not alleviated his sufferings, and exalted the condition of man.

Go into any village or society, where this day is kept by all, from the master to the servant, holy unto the Lord—Mark the indications of providence, of industry, of thrift and of plenty, that are everywhere visible. Let the observance of the Sabbath be banished from among them. Let but the present generation have passed away;–and then visit them again, and mark the contrast.

The church of God, once neat and entire, now sinking to ruin, its doors fallen from their hinges, its walls defiled and broken, and, instead of resounding with the praises of Jehovah, echoing with the lowing of the beast, or with the voice of the swallow, presents a striking miniature of the change which has taken place.

The tavern, formerly the quiet and peaceful retreat of the traveler, has become a scene of noise, of riot, and of wrangling.

Listen to the curses and the impious oaths of children, as you walk the streets. See neighbors quarrelling, and harassing each other with lawsuits; their fences broken down, their fields overrun with weeds and briars; their habitations decaying; their foundations tumbling from beneath them; their windows filled with tattered garments and everything around them, like the language and persons of their wretched occupants, exhibiting the marks of idleness, of indigence, and of degeneracy. Shall not the magistrate then, who is placed as a guardian over the members of the State see to it that they Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. But since the Sabbath will not be venerated, unless religion in general be encouraged and supported,

It is the duty of rulers,

V. To give encouragement and protection to all the interests of religion.

Divest the Sabbath of its sacred character; let it be viewed merely as a civil institution, and its salutary influence would be no longer felt. Banish the fear of God, and it would be regarded if regarded at all, only as a day of amusement and dissipation.

No man can view, with greater abhorrence than I do, the idea of an alliance between church and state. To make religion an engine of civil power; to enlist it in the cause of worldly policy and ambition, is a gross profanation of its character, and tends directly and powerfully to render it, instead of being the richest blessing, a source of oppressive evils to mankind. But that religion and civil government have no concern with each other, is a doctrine to which I can never subscribe. I can as readily admit that there is no connexion between honesty, temperance and veracity, and civil government.

The truth is, there is a vital connection between them; for neither, without the other, can have an existence that is worth a name.

What would be the religion of any people, if they had no civil government; or what their civil government, if they had no religion?

Let God and his providence be erased from the mind; let men cease to remember that his eye is constantly upon them; that he will one day judge the world in righteousness; that, on that occasion, their most secret thoughts, as well as their actions, will be brought to light, and everyone receive a just recompense of reward; and where would be the ground of confidence, between man and man? What security would be left for honor and veracity? What would become of the obligation of promises and oaths, on which, everything stable in life is depending?

Will it be argued, that our regard for the pubic good, that our innate sense of right and wrong, would be sufficient to constrain us to truth, to justice, and to benevolence? What is the public good? What are right and wrong, in the view of him, who hopes, or fears, noting beyond death? Whose creed is, Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die?

Release mankind from the obligations of religion, and every ruler necessarily becomes a despot, and every citizen a slave. For nothing, in such circumstances, will awe men to obedience, but the iron arm of arbitrary power.

The importance of religious restraints, to the existence of civil government, has been felt by rulers in every age. To give veneration to their characters, and stability to their institutions, they have impiously, and not unfrequently, claimed kindred with their gods, and arrogated the honors of divinity. And never, until our own times, has the attempt been made to establish and support a government, without the belief and acknowledgement of a superintending power. What the consequences were, we have all witnessed.

Will it be asserted, that religion is a concern merely between man and his God, and that the authority of the state has no right to interfere in this concern? But is it not a concern also, between every man and his neighbor; between every husband and his wife; between every parent and his child; between every master and his servant; and between every magistrate and the citizen? What are the relations of men, in which it does not enjoin duties to be performed, and which, if its authority be regarded, it does not affect, control and regulate? Of all the subjects presented to the human mind, it is the most interesting, the most sublime, and the most awful. It is the only consideration, which sets before us motives that are always operative. Which, even in the darkness of midnight, and the secrecy of solitude, have their influence.

Establish the principle, that religion is a matter of no concern with civil government; exempt the former from the authority of the latter, and you establish a principle, which may prove fatal to the best regulated community on earth. You place within the reach of every fanatic, and of every man void of the fear of God, a dagger, with which he may stab society to its vitals.

Men, when under the influence of zeal without knowledge, may embrace any opinions, however absurd, or adopt any practices, however irrational, or however dangerous to the general good. Scarce a doctrine can be named, be its absurdity what it may, that fanatics have not embraced. For conscience sake, they have declared all civil restraints a gross imposition, a wanton violation of their inborn rights, and have forcibly resisted the authority of the state. For conscience sake, they have scattered around them fire brands, arrows and death! And verily thought they were doing God service. With a view to their salvation, the world has beheld, astonishing as it may seem, a combination of men, for the avowed purpose of murder, that they might be condemned and executed by the civil authority; absurdly believing, that if the time of their death were known to them with certainty, they should be constrained to repent. If the government of the state has no concern with religion, how are such extravagances to be checked? Conscience, whose dictates are urged in justification of their opinions and conduct, is, in the view of such men, the voice of God speaking within them. And will you, say they, insult its authority? Will you disregard the injunctions of this heavenly monitor?

Let it never be forgotten, that the public good is paramount to every other consideration. That no private opinions, no private interests, are to be admitted in opposition to it. Civil rulers are invested with supreme authority, for the express purpose of determining and accomplishing what is necessary to promote the peace and prosperity of the community. And shall it be aid, that these nursing fathers of the state have no control of a subject, which, in the hands of fanatics, or of men void of principle, may prove fatal even to the being of society? That it is not their duty to provide for the protection and for the support of religion, which involves in it the highest interests of man, in this life, and everything worth hoping for, in the next?

I wish to be distinctly understood on this subject. I advocate no religious establishment, by the authority of the State; the preference of no denomination of Christians;–the exclusive promotion of no society of men, be their doctrines, or their modes of worship, what they may. Let the rights of conscience, properly so called, be scrupulously, and sacredly regarded. Let every man be left to worship God, if his worship contravene not the rights of others, in the manner which his judgment shall dictate; and let no man be constrained to worship him. The public welfare demands no such partialities;–no such sacrifices;–no such constraint. Religion, as a matter of practice, has its seat in the affections; it is an exercise of the heart. Its offering, to be acceptable unto God, must be a pure, a voluntary offering—No extraneous force can excite in the soul emotions of piety, or elicit from it, the expressions of gratitude. But let the magistrate take care, that religion be respected;–that laws be enacted for the encouragement and aid of its instructors;–that every man be required, as he hath ability, to do something for the support of an object, with which his own, and the best interests of all are intimately connected;–and that the Sabbath be not profaned, by amusement, by pleasure, or by business. As minister of God for good to the people, it is his indispensible duty to do this. And the government which neglects this duty cannot fail to provoke his displeasure; and will sooner or later experience it, in the licentiousness, the factions, and the violence, which will ensue.

Will anyone, in his senses, pretend, that to be obliged to contribute to the encouragement of religion because he feels no veneration for it, or embraces not its doctrines, or to abstain from secular pursuits on the day of the Lord, is an infringement of the rights of conscience? Will anyone say, that there is anything immoral in such submission?

The man, who is, in opinion, opposed to the constitution, may, with equal propriety, refuse obedience to the authority of the state. Or the miscreant, who loves his money better than his country, or his soul—may, on pretence of religious scruples, claim exemption from the taxes, that are essential to its maintenance. Conscience hs as much concern with the latter cases, as with the former. It has, indeed, no concern with either of them.

Every member of the community, whether he worship God or not; whether he embrace the obligations of religion or not; would have a recompense, for what might reasonably be required of him, for its support. Yes, if it be of any consequence to him, that his children be virtuous and happy; that they be free from examples of profanity, of idleness, and of debauchery; that society e not harassed with broils, with riots, and with violence, and that his character, his property, and his life, be secure, he would, indeed, have an ample recompense.

VI. But of no avail will be the wisest system of policy, unless the magistrate, whose duty it is, shall vigorously, and impartially execute the laws.

The laws of the state must be vigorously executed.

Certainty of punishment, where the fear of God is wanting, is the only effectual barrier against crime. Hope of impunity strengthens temptation, and furnishes additional incentives to transgression. Let the violation of established laws be connived at, or looked upon with indifference, and there is an end to all mild and wholesome discipline. This remark is equally true of every government, from the father of the family, to the prince on the throne.

Let the regulations of the domestic circle be disregarded; let the commands of the parent cease to be enforced; and disrespect, and idleness and disorder will inevitably follow.

A constitution combining the knowledge and wisdom of ages, if this vital principle of policy were overlooked in its administration, would soon be treated with neglect and contempt.

Let those, therefore, who bear the sword, be careful that the laws be enforced—when violated, that the offender be brought to justice; that their penalties be inflicted. For if suffered to be transgressed with impunity they cease to have authority, and their threatenings are in vain.

The laws must also be impartially administered.

Government is instituted for common defence and security. Every citizen has the same claim to its care and protection. That individuals, or sects of men, whose conduct, or whose opinions, political or religious, are hostile to the principles of the constitution, and subversive of the liberties of the state, are unworthy of confidence, and are to be viewed with jealousy; is not to be denied. But so long as all render a willing submission to the laws, and advocate no measures, and embrace no sentiments, which can be deemed unconstitutional, the lives, the persons, the property, and the happiness of all, are to be regarded as sacred, and as equally sacred. In such circumstances, the exercise of favoritism, in the administration of the laws; the promotion of some, and the depression of others, from motives of prejudice, of malice, of revenge, or of personal aggrandizement, is a direct violation of the principles of distributive justice, and of the ends of civil government; and it argues a shameful destitution of that magnanimity, and expanded liberality of sentiment, which ought ever to characterize the guardians of the public weal. A practice like this, let it exist under whatever form of government it may, is tyranny. In a government, which is really, as well as professedly, republican, in its constitution and measures, it cannot fail to produce alarming consequences.

I can think of hardly a greater judgment that can be sent on any people, than the curse of weak, of timid, of partial, or of temporizing magistrates. If those, who are called to the high and responsible station of guarding, and enforcing the laws, will not execute them, with energy, with fidelity, and with impartiality, there can be no security for anything. The value of property, of every comfort, of every privilege, even of life itself, is depreciated.

Such a violation of the first principles of a righteous government, is most devoutly to be deprecated. It alienates the affections of the people from their rulers, and from the constitution; it begets jealousies, and intrigues and factions;–it emboldens the monster ice, and throws open the floodgates of licentiousness;–it shakes from their very foundations the pillars of the state;–it leads directly to all the horrors of anarchy;–and, in a word, it is the beaten road to the subversion of liberty, and to the reign of despotism.

Suffer me to remark….and I can call God to witness my sincerity….that in advancing these sentiments, I have no exclusive reference to any man, to any party of men, or to any government, in our own country. I advance them because I deem them to be truths, and momentous truths. They are, indeed, eternal truths; and the ruins of nations verify them.

Cast your eyes over the map of the world. Why have so many states and kingdoms been erased from its surface? Why prowls the savage Arab over the ruins of the proud metropolis of Assyria and of Chaldea? Why does the stupid Ottoman, or riots the effeminate Italian, on the consecrated soil, where once flourished the empire of Greece and of Rome? Famed for their arts and their arms, mighty nations trembled at their power, and submitted to their dominion. “They stood on an eminence and glory covered them.”

Though dead they still speak! Though ages since, blotted from the list of nations, their catastrophe remains a solemn and eternal memento of the truth, that, where civil officers are timid, partial, ambitious, or temporizing, in the administration of the laws, personal bravery, high attainments in science, and the ablest systems of government, cannot save a people from corruption, from licentiousness, from faction, nor from final ruin.

VII. It is the duty of rulers to exhibit to those whom they are called to govern, an example worthy their imitation.

The propensity to imitation is one of the strongest propensities of our nature. It is implanted by the God who made us deep in the human breast. It affects, in no small degree, our thoughts, our speech, and our actions. Hence the truth of the remark that “We are governed more by example than by precept.”

I readily subscribe to the doctrine of the natural, deep rooted, and malignant depravity of the heart. I must subscribe to it; for it is taught me by the exercises of my own breast, by the history of all men, and by the word of God, in a manner, which I cannot question.

But is it not to the power of example also, that vice is greatly indebted for its contagious and wide spreading influence? Even the groveling and polluted wretch, who wanders the streets taking the name of God in vain, reeling with intoxication, or imprecating damnation on himself and others, notwithstanding he may do no good, is by no means to be regarded as a blank in society. The transition, from beholding crime to the actual commission of it, is easy and natural. Vice, by becoming familiar, loses its odiousness; and practices, that were contemplated with detestation and alarm, are, by being often seen, looked upon with indifference, and adopted, not unfrequently, without remorse.

Example, by slow and imperceptible advances, transforms the temperate man into a sot, the civilized man into a savage, and makes even the dastard brave. But when aided by the respect, which is naturally entertained for a parent, for an instructor, for a ruler, or for brilliant and commanding talents, it exerts an influence that knows no calculation.—On this principle it is to be accounted for, more than any other, that families, schools, and nations, so often contract the manners and habits of their guardians;–that virtues and vices so often seem hereditary;–that the conduct of an individual of distinguished intellect and attainments, if conspicuous by his excellencies, or his crimes, is so often salutary, or pestiferous, to the community;–that the stream of corruption, at first slow and silent, in its progress, at length widens, and deepens, and swells into a torrent, bearing away the character, the hopes, and the happiness of thousands.

Of all the conditions of men, that of rulers is the most responsible, the most dignified, and the most commanding. Girded with power, as ministers of God; constituted the framers of the law; the arbiters, under its authority, of the conflicting claims of their fellow citizens; and presiding over their fortunes, their liberties and their lives, they are naturally regarded with profound emotions of deference and veneration. The elevation to which they are exalted renders all their conduct visible, and gives a force to their example, which will not be resisted. Their virtues, and their vices, diffuse their influence through the community, and stamp its character in the view of surrounding nations. That people, whom God visits with the judgment of wicked rulers, cannot long remain virtuous and happy. Regulations for the restraint or prevention of immorality, enacted by vicious magistrates is nothing better than a mockery of the solemn business of legislation. And in vain do the laws lift their voice against crimes, while those who should execute them are themselves transgressors. A government, without virtue, necessarily corrupts the people, and a people without virtue, the government. Till at length, each corrupted, and corrupting, they rush together, down the current of licentiousness, into the tempestuous ocean of misrule and anarchy.


TO be elevated to the first office, in the gift of an independent people, is a distinction, to which few can attain. It is, however, a distinction, which, by the man, who duly considers its cares, its dangers and its responsibility, will not be coveted. It is not Sir, we trust, from the views of ambition, that you have been again induced to listen to the suffrage of your fellow citizens. We have the pleasure of believing, that purer motives actuate you;–a conviction of the truth that your talents are not your own, and a readiness to employ them in the station, to which God may call you, however arduous its cares, or perplexing its difficulties. It is a truth, which ought never to be forgotten, that the higher our elevation, the greater usually are our dangers; and that the more aggravated will be our guilt, if unfaithful to our trust. But to the man, who fears God and strives to perform his duty, the most exalted condition is not without its encouragement; for if at last accepted of him, the greater will be his reward.

To instruct your Excellency, in the duties of your office, is an undertaking, in which, I have not the presumption to engage.

The best interests of a people, who have so frequently called you to rule over them cannot but be dear to you. On your exertions, in no small degree, are those interests depending.

Rising above the narrow, the embarrassing views of party prejudices and local attachments, and surveying with an expanded benevolence, a numerous and increasing community, it will, it should be expected, be the constant, the only aim of your Excellency, to promote the chief good of every class of your constituents; to give wisdom and moderation to the councils of State, and dignity and independence to the character of the commonwealth.

Elevation above our fellow men is not without its dangers. It is not in the glare of the sunshine of prosperity, that the graces, which God requires, are most apt to be cultivated. You, Sir, are not insensible to the temptations that surround you. The praise of men vanisheth with their breath; and comfortless will be the recollection of having filled the chair of State, and of having possessed, with distinction, the confidence of thousands, should you find yourself, in the end, without the approbation of God. While faithful to your country, be faithful to your God; nor neglect to seek first the approbation of Him whose favor is life, and whose loving kindness is better than life.

May your Excellency be richly endued with the wisdom which is from above. May the God of mercy grant you, in abundance, grace, peace and consolation. And when your days shall have been numbered, and your labors finished, may you hear the welcome, the transporting plaudit, Well done thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.


THE interests of your charge are of no ordinary value. It is not for yourselves, for your constituents, or for the present generation only, that you legislate, but for posterity. The influence of your deliberations will descend to future time, and numbers, yet unborn, may be blessed or cursed by them.

With you, Gentlemen, it rests, in no small degree, to determine, whether we shall enjoy the privilege of wise and salutary laws, and of an upright, steady and vigorous execution of them; whether we shall be blessed with good morals, with godliness and honesty, and generations to come be virtuous, independent and happy;–or whether our land shall be filled with vice, with intrigues, and with factions, and our children rise up and curse our memory.

Rich indeed is the inheritance left us by our fathers, which was purchased by their labors and sufferings, and preserved by their toil, their valor, and their prayers. Aggravated will be the guilt of not transmitting to posterity such a legacy unimpaired.

You are not, Gentlemen, ignorant, and it is presumed not unmindful, of the high importance of the concerns that are committed you; nor of the candor, wisdom and integrity, that are essential to a faithful and able management of them.

The period, at which you are entrusted, with the interests of the commonwealth, is portentous and eventful. The circumstances in which you are assembled are in many respects auspicious. Our improvements, in agriculture, in manufactures, in literature, and the sciences are rapidly advancing. The war in which we have been involved has, under the good providence of God, been brought to an happy issue; and to HIS name be our offering of undissembled gratitude. The soldier, released from his toils and dangers, again participates of domestic comforts. Our sea coast is no longer threatened by hostile fleets, nor our frontier settlements by invading armies.

Is not the present period, however, to the American who loves the dearest interests of his country, a period of deep solicitude? While, as a nation, we have been increasing in wealth and independence, is it to be denied, that we have rapidly increased also in vice and dissipation? Where are now to be found that hardihood of integrity, that veneration for the laws, that reverence for the magistrate, and that stern and unyielding opposition to licentiousness, which so strongly characterized our virtuous ancestors?

See the laws of God and of man, daringly violated; and the holy Sabbath openly profaned. See the minister of justice slumbering over his oath, and vice rioting with impunity; profane swearing and intemperance blighting, like the mildew, our national character, and threatening our fairest hopes.

The vengeance of God will not always slumber; and unless the friends of virtue and their country will gird themselves, rise in their might, and present a barrier to these dangers, let no man be disappointed, should our nation, ere long, be spoiled of its liberties, and our children become slaves.

It is to every good man a subject of sincere rejoicing, that the public are awaking to a sense of their danger. Something has already been done to stay the progress of these evils, and to ward off the judgments of God. By your exertions, Gentlemen, in co-operation with those of your constituents, much might be done; and our privileges and our posterity, might, it is to be hoped, yet be saved from ruin.

Will you ask me, in what manner your efforts should be employed in this concern? I will tell you Gentlemen; by enacting such laws, for the prevention, and discouragement, of vice, if such be not already enacted, as circumstances require; by appointing officers of justice, who are not afraid to do their duty; and dare not leave it undone; by leading, and aiding, in forming associations, for the reformation of morals, and showing, by your counsels and exertions, that you feel a deep and solemn interest in the subject; by proving to your neighbors, that you venerate the day of the Lord; and by exhibiting to them an example of temperance and moderation by abstaining from the use of ardent spirits in all cases, excepting when necessity demands them. The use to you may be immaterial, but the example to them may be of infinite moment.

Possessing, as is evident you do, the confidence of your fellow citizens, the effect of your exertions is not to be doubted. And tell me, Gentlemen, dare you, as Christians, or as patriots, withhold your hands from this work of reformation?

But there is an evil, to which we are exposed, and which, if possible, is still more alarming. That there are within our country, men, who owe to it their birth and education, who would cheerfully sacrifice, at the shrine of their ambition, its liberties and laws, is a truth, which, though painful to contemplate, we are constrained to acknowledge. For such men, have ever existed, in every country.

But is it possible, that the citizens of these United States are, almost without exception, hostile to their government, and enemies to the soil, which was purchased by the dangers and sufferings; which was consecrated by the blood; and in whose bosom are entombed the ashes of their fathers? If this assertion be true, degenerate indeed is our character; if it be not true, we are our own gross calumniators.

But the assertion is not, cannot, be true; and the conduct of those who make it gives the lie to it. For while the adherents of the two great political parties among us are stigmatized by each other with the epithet, enemies to their country, do they not as neighbors, treat each other with confidence, and as if, on all subjects, politics only excepted, they believed each other honest? Is it possible that a man should be just, in his domestic and his social intercourse, that in his private relations, he should conduct, in the fear of God, and yet be, in his relation to the community, totally void of principle?

And to what, is the imputation of this solecism in the human character to be attributed? The answer is at hand; to party spirit, that fiend of social order; which, emerging from the abyss of darkness, has embroiled, and weakened, and prostrated the firmest governments on earth.

Examine the records of the Legislative councils of our country, for the last twenty years. Whence happens it, let me ask you, when assembled for the solemn and commanding purpose of deliberating upon its interests, and of enacting laws and adopting measures, for the public good, that we find them, day after day, week after week, and month after month, giving precisely the same number of suffrages for the affirmative and negative of almost every question; whether of a political nature or not; whether of moment or not? Whence happens it, that when an individual among them has the independence to dissent from his party, he is immediately proscribed as a traitor to their cause, and as an enemy to his country? Whence happens it, that, with every political revolution in the Legislature, well nigh every office in their gift from the supreme judicatory down to that of the most subordinate minister of justice, must change its occupant? Is it because all the talents, all the integrity, all the patriotism in the nation belong to one party exclusively? This no man dare pretend. Is it not because both are under the influence of party prejudice; a prejudice which views every objet, in relation to itself, through a disordered medium; which literally, and perhaps honestly, puts evil for good, and good for evil; darkness for light, and light for darkness; which discovers, in its opponents, no merits, but magnifies all their failings; and sees, in its friends, no imperfection, but every excellency. If, Gentlemen, those among us, of your standing and influence, will not stop and hesitate; will not, by their wisdom, their moderation, and their forbearance, endeavor to check and to stay this torrent of persecution, where, O my BELOVED COUNTRY, where will it bear you! I criminate, exclusively, neither party. But I must say, that I believe them both guilty. Perhaps they are equally guilty. I cannot contemplate this subject, but with unutterable apprehensions.

The voice of our fathers cries to us from the dead, “In vain we toiled, in vain we fought, we bled in vain, if you our sons” have not the magnanimity to immolate your prejudices, on the altar of your country’s good. Every republic, which has existed, stands a monument before us, with lessons inscribed in blood. God himself declares that A kingdom, or nation, divided against itself cannot stand.

And remember, Gentlemen, that HE also declares, though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished. And may we all remember, that we must one day stand at his tribunal.




1 Hon. Jacob Rush, Judge of the court of Common Pleas, in the state of Pennsylvania. See his charges to the grand jury. This little book should be read by every citizen.

* Originally published: Dec. 25, 2016