William Frederick Rowland (d. 1843) graduated from Dartmouth in 1784. He was the pastor of the First Church in Exeter, NH beginning in 1790. This sermon was preached by Rowland in New Hampshire on June 2, 1796.
S E R M O N,
DELIVERED IN PRESENCE OF
JOHN TAYLOR GILMAN, Esquire
THE HONORABLE THE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
STATE OF NEW-HAMPSHIRE,
CONVENED AT EXETER ON THE DAY OF THE
JUNE 2, 1796.
BY WILLIAM F. ROWLAND, A. M.
PASTOR OF THE FIRST CHURCH IN EXETER.
In the House of Representatives,
June 3d, 1796.
VOTED, That Mr. Moody, Mr. Crawford, and Mr. Upham, be a committee, on the part of the House, to join such of the Hon. Senate as they may appoint, to wait on the Reverend Mr. Rowland, and return him the thanks of the Legislature for his ingenious Discourse, delivered yesterday before the General Court, and desire of him a Copy for the Press.
Sent up for concurrence;
RUSSELL FREEMAN, Speaker.
In SENATE, June 3d, 1796, Read and concurred. Mr. Flanders appointed.
Nath’l Parker, dep. Sec’ry.
True Copy, Attest, Nath’l Parker, D’y. S’y.
2 SAMUEL, xxiii. 3.
HE THAT RULETH OVER MEN MUST BE JUST, RULING IN THE FEAR OF GOD.
A CHARACTER formed upon the principles of religion is the most honorable and useful. It comprises all the virtues that recommend man to the peculiar notice of his Maker, render him an ornament to society, make him happy in a state of social connection in the present world, and glorious in immortality.
Such a character was David, The anointed of the God of Jacob: and he insists upon the indispensable necessity of it in those who rule over men. Nor does he offer merely his own private opinion respecting this important subject, for the Spirit of the Lord was with him—The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
The royal Prophet here points out, in a very brief and comprehensive manner, the duty, and the necessary qualifications of a civil ruler. These words ought to be engraven in the heart of every ruler, and in the heart of every person in the choice of rulers; for while they direct the latter to whom they ought to give their suffrages, they point out to the former the character which they should possess.
It is both pertinent and laudable, and must be considered so, by all good men, to enter on the public business of legislation, by the presentment of the rulers and officers of Government before the Lord in his sacred courts, to hear the words of his law, and to supplicate his presence and aid. We are happy that our civil Fathers have consecrated the present time to these solemn duties of religion. The occasion on which we are assembled, and the theme which I have chosen, will naturally lead me to make some remarks on government; delineate the character of a good ruler; exhibit the necessity of religion in civil administrations, and its happy effects in society.
Mutual advantage, at first induced men to form into social compact, and produced towns, states and empires. To exist in this social capacity, and secure life, property and happiness, it was found necessary that they should have some form of civil government. It is the will of God, that government should exist among men. What particular form is nowhere designated, but every nation has a right to choose for itself, and adapt it to the views, feelings and circumstances of the people. One form may be best for one nation, and a different, for another. That form is best, which most effectually secures their rights and rational liberties.
To the due administration of justice it is necessary that some should be clothed with authority; without this, they will not be able to regulate the affairs of state, and secure the good and peaceable, from the wanton abuse of the wicked and licentious. Their power, it is true, they derive from the people, but when they have invested them with authority they should pay due submission to, and place confidence in them.
A race of rational beings, not connected by the parental or filial tie, not depraved, but perfectly innocent, it is probable would fall into some kind of polity or civil connection. By forming into society the collected gifts and graces of all would become the property and emolument of all; but without social connection, they would be the property and profit only of the person possessing them, and could not benefit the whole. Society cannot be formed, or subsist, without certain regulations, or constitutional establishments. Such a race of beings, as we before mentioned, could find no difficulty in forming into union, and constituting the social tie. If their powers and capacities were different, reason would plainly lead the superior to the head, and the inferior to their respective places of subordination in the body. Or, if in regard to powers and capacities, all were on a par, then all would equally govern, and be equally subject. The good Angels are represented as having a kind of connection and order among them. The sacred books speak of Principalities and Powers, Thrones and Dominions; and the superiority signified by this necessarily supposes connection and subordination. But be it as it may among good and holy beings, yet obviously among beings so deeply depraved and selfish as man, government is indispensably necessary. Without government, it would be impossible to live in such a world as ours. A state of anarchy, without law and government, would be a state of complete wretchedness.—Such are the fierce and savage lusts of men, that property and life would constantly hang on uncertainty. The Israelitish nation found themselves in a most calamitous state, when there was no Government authoritatively established among them, and everyone did without control what was right in his own eyes. The God of nature has pointed out the propriety of civil government, in the constitution of families, and given a specimen of it in parental authority and filial subjection; this only excepted, that all men are born free and stand on a par; so that all rightful governing must derive from the governed and have its foundation in common consent and agreement. Necessity early led men to form themselves into social bodies, and confirm the social tie by certain laws and regulations mutually agreed on and committed to some one or more of the body.
In order to government, rulers are necessary; and to a happy administration it is requisite that they answer the character in the text: Some delineation of which was the next thing we proposed.
He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. He must be just in all his dealings, in the exercise of the powers with which he is invested, administering justice without partiality. The word of God teaches the necessary qualifications of a good ruler. To this he will look for instruction in his duty. Here he will find a model, on which his character should be formed; and rules relating to his whole conduct. It teaches him to reverence God as the Supreme Ruler of nations, his dependence on Him for light and direction, and his accountableness to Him for all his actions: and this will have a happy influence on his conduct and excite him to fidelity. It unfolds a glorious immortality, through Jesus Christ, to those who are faithful to God in the trust committed to them, and improve their talents aright: by which glorious hope the pious ruler is animated in his laborious undertaking.
It humbles the pride of the human heart, teaches that salvation is only through the grace that is in Jesus, and lays prostrate the hope of man from any distinguished merit in himself; which must tend to inspire the Christian ruler with an amiable humility, while raised to a seat of honor; prevent his exalting himself above his Brethren, and lording it over God’s heritage. It teaches the motives, by which they are to be influenced in all their deliberations and decrees. Influenced by such a religion, the Ruler will consult the good of the community, and will always live in the affections of a grateful people. He will have a humble dependence on God for wisdom to conduct him. He will see his need of divine assistance, and be modest and unassuming. He will not crowd himself into public notice by artifice, but wait until he is called by the voluntary suffrages of the people. Those, who are best qualified to rule, will be least solicitous to obtain an office. A sense of the importance of a public trust, and of having the weight of public affairs devolve on them, forbids their aspiring to rule. Persuaded that the most refined enjoyments are to be found in the walks of domestic retirement, they will quit them for an elevated station, only when called by the united voice of their brethren, and constrained by a sense of duty. There is no greater evidence of a person’s unfitness for public trust than his seeking it by promoting faction. True merit does not seek public notice, and it reluctantly enters the field of action. The good ruler will therefore engage in public life, not to gratify his own ambition, consult his own ease, or obtain the applause of men; but from a sense of duty.
When clothed with authority, he will be concerned that his administrations be consistent with the will of God, and promotive of the public good. He governs for the whole, and consults the advantage of society. No personal or partial considerations will influence him to turn aside from duty. Awed by the fear of God, and a sense of his accountableness, he pursues a steady course, nor is influenced by the adulations of friends or the clamours of pretended patriots. He will always make it his endeavour to enact wise and salutary laws, which are essential to preserve the peace and order of society. Much wisdom and integrity re necessary to direct the ruler in framing such laws, and to preserve him from the baleful influence of selfish and party motives. While the unjust aims to establish such laws as will best promote his own selfish ends, the just will consult the good of his constituents. The ruler of this character will look, not merely to the emolument of individuals, but he will seek the best good of the whole circle: like the parent of a numerous offspring, he has a tender regard for very member, feels interested in their united prosperity, and will not sacrifice the peace of the family, to gratify the capricious humours of a few.
A ruler of this description will not only enact laws which are founded on the principles of justice; but will take care that they be faithfully executed. The wisest and best code of laws will be of advantage to a community, only so far as they are accompanied with a faithful execution. He will not only obey the laws himself, and recommend such obedience to others, by his own example; but will use the power, with which he is vested, to enforce obedience from the unruly. He will be a terror to those who do evil, and while he punishes the guilty, he will praise and encourage those who do well. Firm in the cause of truth and righteousness, not over-awed by popular clamour, he will steadily pursue the dictates of conscience, knowing he has a Master in Heaven, to whom he must give an account. He will not sacrifice truth and justice, though it issue in popular odium, and dismission from public service. He will not pusillanimously shrink from duty, because it is attended with difficulty and opposition; but courageously stem the torrent, until, over-borne by its impetuosity, he is compelled to recede from danger. Influenced in all his proceedings, by the fear of God, he will be more powerfully prompted to a course of rectitude, than by all the adulations or censures of men.
How contemptible must be that ruler, who has no opinion of his own, but is blown about by every gale of temptation, and complies with the caprices of evil and designing men! Firmness and stability are very essential qualities in a good ruler. But, let his talents and abilities be ever so great, and his political acquirements ever so conspicuous, he will be but poorly qualified for a station of eminence, who has no reverence for God, and regard for his religion. His honesty and integrity must be doubted. It is to be feared he would neglect the interest of those, whose prosperity he should seek, and sport with the liberties of the people.
Men devoid of every principle of religion, unawed by the fear of God, and unrestrained by his commands, cannot reasonably expect to be entrusted with the lives and liberties of the people; nor that they will countenance their vices. They cannot put confidence in them; for there is, there indeed can be no reason to think, that they will regard men, who have no fear of God before their eyes. It is therefore necessary that the fear of God be fixed in the heart of him, who rules over men, and that he be influenced by it in all his conduct.
Rulers should not only be concerned that their administrations be good, but must themselves obey those laws, which they enjoin on others. If the makers of the law be the first to break them, they have every reason to expect that many will follow their example.
Rulers are set for an example to the people.—They are to reprove those who violate the laws, and encourage those who keep them, by exhibition a pattern for their imitation, not only in civil, but divine precepts; and, in this way, be nursing Fathers to the Church. The example of those, who are elevated to office, will always, in a greater or less degree, influence society. The people look to them, and form their manners, their dress and behavior; also their sentiments and practice, in a political and a religious view. The body of the people, generally, receive their moral and political complexion from those, who are in eminent stations. The rulers of Israel formed the manners of the nation. When they were wicked and corrupt, general wickedness and idolatry prevailed. Thus, in the time of our Saviour, when the prejudices of the people run high, they enquired, whether, Any of the Rulers of the people believed on him; intimating, that the conduct of their rulers, would influence their minds to receive, or reject the Messiah.
So it has been, in some sense, with other nations, and so it is with our own. It is natural to look to those of superior wisdom and eminence, for example. And though some, from perverseness of nature, being lost to all sense of honor and shame, may totally disregard their good example, and others, awed by the fear of God, may altogether avoid their corruptions; yet the general body of the people are more or less influenced by them to good or evil.
It is of high importance, therefore, that rulers be men of virtue; and that they reverence religion and its institutions. It is in their power to do much good, or evil: the present prosperity, and the everlasting welfare of multitudes may much depend on their conduct.
I proceed to the last thing proposed; which was to exhibit the necessity of religion in civil administrations, and its happy effects in society.
Religion is necessary to the happiness of society; and without it, civil government cannot subsist.—Man is endowed by his great author with social faculties; but so great is his depravity, that selfishness predominates in his heart, and he has lusts and passions, which, if under no control, would fill the world with vice, and its attendant misery. The faculties, by which he is raised in the scale of being, make him more subtle in planning, and assist him in effecting his wicked and destructive purposes. If the mind be impressed with no idea of a God, every object of pursuit may be contemplated with a supreme regard; and the selfish would gain a complete ascendency over the benevolent affections.
The aids of religious principles, in union with the powers and faculties natural to man, are insufficient to restrain his irregular and mischievous passions; and the latter without the former must be much more so.
The light of nature indeed teaches the existence of a God, and an all-wise and glorious providence, when her dictates are suitably attended to; and when they are not, and men boast themselves as men of reason, and through sophistry and ridicule attempt to subvert religion in the hearts of men, the “Age of reason” becomes an age of more than Egyptian darkness.
To guard men against the lusts and furious passions of each other, civil establishments, always known to be insufficient, have been connected with, or have had recourse to the aids of religion.
What could be the origin of society without this connecting bond? And in societies formed, nothing can so powerfully induce the ruler to a wise administration of government, and a faithful discharge of all the duties of his office, or so ensure the obedience of subjects.
A ruler cannot be supposed to lose the feelings of the man by an elevation to office; he has the same passions to govern, and lusts to conquer; and the government and victory of these, is rendered more difficult, by the temptations which are increased, and the opportunities for gratifying them, which are multiplied, by the situation in which he is placed. There are many, perhaps, whose conduct is inoffensive in the stations of private life, who, if they swayed a scepter, would become Neroes. But, how much soever warmed with true patriotism the hearts of civil rulers may be, they cannot calculate upon the interest of their subjects, in the righteous administration of their legal power. With respect to secret crimes, and crimes where numbers and power are enlisted on the side of the transgressors, coercion will be weak, and government of no avail. Set aside the influence of religious principle, and the members of the community could have no ground for rational trust and confidence in each other. No oath could be administered in such a society; they would live each moment in a state of alarm; government would lost all its energy; society would be full of disorder, confusion and every evil work; the voice of joy would not be heard; the name of happiness would not be known; and being itself would be a curse.
If the being and attributes of the Most High, an all-wise, powerful and holy providence, and the retributions of eternity are acknowledged, the state of things is surprisingly altered for the better. Rulers may exercise the powers with which they are invested, and the people, whom they govern, will obey their laws, and feel that their guardian care is a source of mutual happiness to the society of which they are members.
Those who are cordially disposed to lead quiet and holy lives, cannot fail to realize, that they, their interest and happiness, are rendered as safe, as this state, and the existing circumstances with which they are surrounded, can possibly make them. And, on the other hand, men of bad hearts and evil dispositions will not be able to run into those excesses, to which their unbridled lusts would lead them, without counteracting the dictates of conscience; bursting asunder the strongest bands of society, and hazarding, or giving up life, property, and all that is worth living for.
The sacred books teach us the being and attributes of God. They exhibit his Majesty, his Holiness, his Justice, his Goodness, his Mercy, and his Truth: His Omnipresence, his Spirituality, his Omniscience, his Supreme and unlimited Dominion; his readiness to pardon, and his determination to reward the righteous, and punish the wicked and impenitent.
They also bring us acquainted with our nature, state and circumstances; with our misery and the mode of our cure; they point out our duty in every situation, in every relation, and in all the circumstances of human life; they encourage our rational hopes, and animate us by the most sublime motives.
All other things, which are deemed necessary to our peace, in the connected and social state, will not avail without this. No natural principles, nor the best forms of government, will be sufficient without the conducting guidance, and powerful energy of religion. This clearly shews, that the civil ruler is to be considered as God’s minister, and, that the subject ought to yield obedience to good and salutary laws, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake.
The beauty of the Christian system is exhibited, and its advantages to connected minds, in many and various respects. It purifies the heart and amends the life. It refines, ennobles and exalts the affections. When the civil order is broken in upon by the licentious and disorderly part of society, when men of weak heads and dishonest hearts officiously attempt to guide the affairs of State, and to arraign, at their bar, the well tried and chosen patriots of the commonwealth, our religion commands them to study the things which make for peace, to submit to good government as the ordinance of God, and to obey magistrates as his ministers to them for good. It enjoins patriotism as a common duty; and whatsoever we would that others should do unto us that we do the same to them—and extend a generous benevolence to the whole race of man.
The malevolent passions and corrupt feelings of depraved nature, if unrestrained, would predominate over the better principles, the social and humane dispositions of man; and involve society, in calamities, too many to enumerate, and too horrible to think upon.
The religion of Jesus rectifies the foil of the heart; eradicates those evil dispositions which have been cultured there; plucks up every plant which his good hand hath not planted; restrains the passions, by bringing them under its happy dominion; and fills society with tranquility and order.
It cultivates in the minds of men, the purest and the sublimest principles of virtue. It reclaims them from all those paths of iniquity, in which, through the solicitations of the wicked, and the allurements of false honor and worldly pleasure, they may have wandered; and makes them good men, and useful members of the community. It secures and promotes the interests of government and the prosperity of its subjects. It directs rulers and people to the duties, which are peculiar to their respective places; and by setting before them the most glorious motives, sweetly constrains and allures to the discharge of them. It promotes peace; it breathes benevolence; it cherishes the kind and social affections, and rectifies the morals of mankind. It prohibits everything that is injurious to our happiness, or the interests of those who are about us. When all the members of a community are under its influence, and conduct agreeably to its requirements, they form the most beautiful and happy society: the voice of profaneness, fraud and licentiousness will not be heard in the streets; iniquity will stop its mouth and virtue triumph. Society is happy in proportion as religion flourishes. But religion has something nobler in its view and tendency than the civil governments of the world; it looks forward into eternity; yet it is as friendly to the happiness of men, in the present state, as if it embraced no other object. It is a dishonorable idea of religion, and degrading to its author, that some entertain—an idea that religion is a substitute to civil government, and looks no farther than the present state.
We have no reason to think, from anything we can find in the sacred books, that our blessed Lord designed to intermeddle with, or, in any respects, change the civil establishments of mankind. His kingdom, he expressly tells us, is not of this world. He suffered Princes and Potentates to remain where they were; and left men to decide all matters of controversy with respect to them, by the principles of reason and their civil laws or forms of government. He inculcated lessons of obedience to them; and wrought a miracle to pay tribute, when he knew that he should have been excused.
The religion of Jesus is replete with the wisest maxims of civil polity, and inculcates them by the most inviting rewards, and the most dreadful punishments. To secure the favor of the Most High is to render to society the most essential advantage. They who rule for God, who protect his Church, who are animated by his religion, and exemplify in their public administrations, and in the private walks of domestic retirement, all the virtues of the Christian, and they only, can govern with safety to themselves, and advantage to their constituents. They will mutually share with the people the blessings which they diffuse. Under their wise councils and determinations religion will flourish. This will make them honorable and respectable to themselves: It will encircle them with a glory, which the breath of mortals will not be able to take away; and raise them to seats of immortal honor.
Civil rulers are the guardians of the people; they will not separate the public weal from their own private happiness, nor feel satisfied with their labors, unless they are directed to the advantage of the community. They will derive the highest pleasure in the administrations, which secure to those under their charge their rights and liberties, civil and sacred.
Rulers, who use their influence to set aside the maxims of gospel morality and piety, forego the important and numerous advantages, which might accrue to themselves from the happy disposition of subjects, governed by the purest motives, and trained to the most virtuous conduct. If society were formed upon the laws of religion, its members would faithfully render to all their dues; cheerfully obey their governors in the proper and rightful exercise of their authority; and in this way strenuously and constantly endeavour to promote the happiness of each other, and of the body politic. But if rulers are so impolitic and wicked, as, by their example or influence, to banish religion, they may reasonably expect that the people to whom they give laws will treat them with no more respect than they treat the Sovereign Ruler; and that they will endeavour, as far as they are able, to disregard their authority, and evade or violate their commands.
The social interest is a vain and wild fancy without religion. Let religion, and the virtues which it inculcates be banished, and the bases of public order and private tranquility are at once subverted; the human character loses its dignity; and has nothing to recommend it above the herd of the forest.
Nothing can lessen the beauty, obscure the brightness, or tarnish the glory of that morality, which the gospel inculcates. To conform to this, he who is called to the arduous duty of ruling OVER MEN MUST BE JUST, RULING IN THE FEAR OF GOD. Parents must be wisely tender and indulgent towards their children, and children must be obedient to their parents. Masters must be gentle, and servants diligent. Ministers must be watchful, and the people to whom they minister must take heed how they receive and hear, and hold fast and repent. It teaches all, in whatsoever state we are, to be content, to be grateful for every enjoyment, and submissive under all the sorrows of human life; to give our hearts to him who hath made, sustained, and redeemed us; and keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
If the laws of religion be viewed in their spirituality, extent, and tendency, reason and equity will be found their basis. And, if he, who is raised to the seat of power, pays no regard to this morality, he has acquired only a fancied elevation, a sorry pre-eminence above his brethren. But he, who is sincere and diligent in his endeavours faithfully to discharge the duties of his station, hath an honor, which enmity and malevolence, with all their poison, will not be able to blacken.
In the social and public, as well as in private life, there is an inseparable connection between holiness and happiness; between sin and misery. From the attributes of the Most High and merciful Ruler, the common dealings of his Providence, and the declarations of his holy word, we may conclude, that he will bless, defend and increase a virtuous nation, and will leave those, who are wicked to suffer the fatal consequences of their own wickedness. The history of the world is full of examples, that in proportion as public virtue, and an attention to the duties of religion have increased or diminished; so the wealth, credit and powers of all states and empires have flourished or decayed. Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. Rulers, therefore, who are the ministers of God, are in duty bound to lend their aid to promote religion.
If such as we have described be the character of the good Ruler, and such the happy consequences of his administrations; it is highly important that none but men of this description be invested with authority.
The duty, the interest and happiness of a free people require, that they examine the characters of those, who are proposed as candidates for places of public trust. It is important that they revere the laws of religion; that its sublime principles influence their hearts, and its pure morals be exhibited in their lives. The wicked and profligate, who ridicule or disbelieve the religion of the Bible, who speak disrespectfully of its sacred truths, cannot safely be entrusted with the liberties of the people: they may greatly oppress them, wantonly sport with the lives of their subjects, unjustly wrest from them the property, which they have earned by their honest and industrious labors, and riot upon the spoils of their happiness.
Our subject teaches not only the importance of good rulers, but the duty and necessity of treating them with respect and submission. They steadily pursue the peace and prosperity of their country; encourage a regard for the precepts of religion, which have the best influence on its happiness, and enforce them by a corresponding example. Such rulers are entitled to respect from the people.
All unauthorized societies, formed to prevent the execution of the laws and subvert government, are not only injurious to the interests of the community, but contrary to the laws of religion.
There ever have been unprincipled men, who were impatient under the restraints of government, who have fought their own private emolument at the expence of the happiness of their country. When such men have the address to procure an election to office, they never fail to excite a factious and turbulent spirit. When the wicked bear rule the people mourn. The suspicions and jealousies of restless and uneasy spirits always endanger the peace and welfare of a people. Rulers should be allowed to exercise their own judgments, in the regulation of all affairs, which come under their cognizance. People are not to be unreasonable in their expectations from them. They cannot in all matters please all. They must consult the good of the whole, not their own private interests, or the interests of a few.
The happiness of a people, under whatever form of government, depends on a wise administration.—Under a government in many respects defective, if it be well administered, they may be happy. And the best and most perfect system, with weak or wicked rulers, cannot fail to make them miserable: but a good government and administration will ensure the most important and lasting benefits.
Those, who rule in the fear of God, will make it their study, to promote the happiness of the people, and approve themselves to God their Judge. They act under the notice of his all-seeing eye, remembering that to Him they must render a strict and impartial account of all their conduct. Happy is the people, who have such rulers, yea; Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.
I am happy in addressing those who, I trust, feel the importance of the observations which have been made. I feel a pleasing confidence while, I hope, I am representing those truths which are agreeable to this honorable body, and that they will strive to have them generally practiced.
Our civil Fathers, assembled this day before the Lord, have deserved much of their country, for their decided and firm conduct in the support of order.
His Excellency the Governor, the Honorable the Council, Senate, and House of Representatives have proved themselves lovers of their country, its peace and prosperity: and, we doubt not, will continue their laudable exertions, and, with unremitting diligence and fidelity, pursue the public good.
Religion and learning are necessary to promote and ensure our best interests. They will, therefore, we trust, do all they can to encourage religion, and be an example to the people, by attending on its institutions, and exhibiting its virtues.
Literature and religion ever go hand in hand, and are the best friends to order, liberty and republican government. The civil Fathers of this State will, therefore, consider it as their duty, to reach out the fostering hand, and be nursing fathers to our important and flourishing University, and to our Academies and Schools of learning; that the rising generation may be trained in the moral and divine precepts of our religion, to be pillars and blessings in the Church, and fill the various seats of government, when this honorable legislature shall sleep in the dust.
My Fathers and Brethren in the Ministry can do much to strengthen the hands of the civil rulers, by teaching and enforcing the holy religion of Jesus, which inculcates peace, order, and a due submission to the constituted authorities of government. Our profession excludes us from an active part in the civil and political concerns of state. Nor do we wish to intermeddle with them, any farther than the interests of religion require. But the religion we preach teaches men to Render to all their dues; tribute, to whom tribute; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; and honor, to whom honor.
We are united with the Rulers of this State in conducting this people, as Aaron was with Moses, the Jewish lawgiver, in leading the tribes of Israel as a flock. Called to the arduous and important duty of publishing and enforcing a religion of the sublimest morality, and most glorious tendency; a religion on which our personal, social, and political happiness so essentially depends; let us look to the seat of mercy, and, with fervent importunity, supplicate a double portion of God’s Holy Spirit to animate us to a suitable zeal for his divine honor; to enable us to follow the example of the chief Shepherd; to affect our hearts with the religion of which we are the messengers to others, that we may suitably announce the declarations of his sacred word; to bless our ministrations with a glorious success, that when we have preached to others we may not be cast away; but, having turned many to righteousness, shine as stars forever in the kingdom of our Redeemer.
We are happy, my fellow-citizens, that we have a constitution of our own choice, excellently calculated to secure to us our invaluable liberties. Under its operation we have enjoyed much civil happiness and prosperity. Our rulers are from ourselves, and accountable for all their public measures. Let the best men for capacity, approved virtue, and attachment to the liberties of their country be appointed to rule: Let us keep a reasonable eye on the public measures: But let a spirit of jealousy, discontent and murmuring against government be banished from among us, as unchristian and unmanly, dangerous to our peace, and provoking to Heaven.
While many of the European nations are involved in all the desolating calamities of war; their substance wasted, or wrested from them by the hand of violence; their houses plundered, and their fields drenched in human blood; the peaceful olive spreads its branches over our favored land, and we sit quietly under our own vines.
We have lately seen the clouds gathering over our heads, threatening to subvert our excellent constitution, and deluge our infant and highly favored Republic. And we dreaded the violence of the impending storm. But these clouds are dissipated; our atmosphere has, at length, almost regained its serenity; and we have reason to rejoice, that the abilities of those, who raised it, were not able to effect their designs.
What language is sufficient to express the regret, which the wise and good have felt at the virulent abuse, which has been poured forth from ambitious, but disappointed demagogues, against our beloved Washington, the Christian hero and statesman! A grateful people will remember his deeds of valour, his wise and prudent counsels; rehearse them to their children, who will early learn to lisp his praises; and impartial history will hand them down to posterity; while those, who have attempted to wound his reputation, will be remembered to their reproach, or buried in everlasting oblivion. Long will Washington live in our hearts. Long may he continue to bless his country; and may God think upon him for good, according to all that he hath done for this people.
Finally: Let us all remember that this transitory world is subject to constant vicissitude, and was never designed for our continuing abode. There is another and better country, where the blessed Jesus determines to bring his chosen and peculiar friends. There order and peace forever reign, in the city of our God.
Let us all aspire after this heavenly inheritance, by a conformity of temper and conduct to the great pattern of holiness. Magistrates, Judges, and people, fear the Lord, and serve him with fidelity, remembering that you will ere long meet with the assembled universe before the judgment seat of Christ, to give an account how you have ruled, and obeyed.
In that solemn day, may we all hear from the Supreme Ruler and Judge of the Universe, WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANTS; ENTER INTO THE JOY OF YOUR LORD.
A M E N.
* Originally published: Dec 27, 2016