Azel Backus (1765-1817) became a Christian after graduating from Yale (1787) and entered the ministry. He was pastor a church in Bethlehem, Connecticut (1791-1812) where he also ran a school. Backus was the first president of Hamilton College in New York in 1812. This sermon was preached in Connecticut on May 10, 1798.
S E R M O N,
PREACHED AT THE
AT HARTFORD IN THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT,
May 10th, 1798.
By AZEL BACKUS, A. M.
PASTOR OF A CHURCH IN BETHLEM.
At a General Assembly of the State of Connecticut, holden at Hartford, on the second Thursday of May, A. D. 1798.
ORDERED, That the Honorable Heman Swift and Mr. David Leavit, jun. present the Thanks of this Assembly to the Reverend Azel Backus, for his Sermon delivered before the General Assembly of the State at the Anniversary Election, on the second Thursday of May, instant, and desire a Copy thereof that it may be printed.
A true Copy of Record,
By Samuel Wyllys, Sec’ry.
II SAMUEL XV. 4.
–Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!
THE perfection of a government will not save it from the evils of faction and party spirit. The divine government itself has long had its opposers. Immediately after its introduction on earth, as we learn from the book of Genesis, the chief of those rebellious spirits, who by a restless ambition had raised a war in heaven, visited the new creation, to sow sedition, and divide its happy inhabitants from their allegiance. He chose the serpent for his craftiness and subtlety, as the fittest instrument to scatter the poison of seduction, and to thwart the designs of wisdom. A temptation, most dangerous and alluring to man in his exalted and happy state, was propounded to the most susceptible of the family of paradise. To artful intimations that they were unreasonably abridged in happiness, and held in ignorance by the tyranny of their Creator, were added the enticing promises of increased freedom, the enlargement of knowledge, and sensitive pleasure. The temptation was fatally successful, and a rebellion hence arose against God on earth, that has raged with awful virulence for almost six thousand years. It called forth the strong arm of power in the flood; on Sodom and its neighbouring cities; in Egypt and at the Red Sea, on a leader that arrogantly questioned, “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice;” and against Korah and his accomplices, who dared to say to Moses and Aaron, the accredited ministers of a polity ordained by God himself. “Ye take too much upon yourselves, and wherefore lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord.” The same restless and ungovernable spirit, raised the Jews against the prophets, to put them to death; it brought the Saviour of men to the cross, and persecuted his followers, until the divine government, in justice to itself, sent an army to sack Jerusalem, and to disperse a wicked, a stiff-necked, and a gainsaying people to all the winds of heaven. What it has done in later ages, may be learned from the encrimsoned page of history, and seen in every apartment of the mighty Bedlam, the great Lazar-house of man: Of man naturally anarchical, disorganized, and seduced by the promise of the father of lies, “Ye shall be as gods.”
As one object will be kept in viewing the following discourse, it will not be necessary to descant on the excellency of one form of government above another; it is enough for our present purpose, that this truth be acknowledged, that faction is, and has been, the lot of every government. The government of kings and nobles has its evils and dangers, which I need not repeat, as they have been the theme of the friends and foes of real liberty. And enthusiastic theorists alone will assert, that elective governments can be so pure in their principles, and so perfect in their administration, as to be perfectly secure from turbulence and insurrection. “As heaven’s blest beams turn vinegar more sour,” we must acknowledge, however degrading it may be to the human character, that faction has thriven most in the mildest governments; and that republics in particular, have been proverbially stormy and tempestuous.
If it is asserted by respectable authority, that, “It is yet in experiment whether human nature can bear so free a government as our own;” he is not the enemy of liberty and of the people who would meet its difficulties, but he who would sedulously conceal and keep them out of sight.
This is my apology for selecting a passage of holy writ, that may lead to matter so unusual on this anniversary occasion. It is a religious duty that we owe to our good government, to be armed against these wiles of faction, these “depths of Satan;” wiles, grown common by frequent repetition; but so slow of heart are men to understand, that they are until this day little considered by the great body of mankind.
Divine inspiration informs us, that the Jewish nation, during the reign of David, were prosperous and happy. When he died it is recorded of him, “that he died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honors.” The same truth is also apparent from many passages of the Psalms, in which the glories of Christ’s future kingdom are undoubtedly shadowed forth, in the real prosperity of Israel, under the wise administration of the son of Jesse: “Out of Zion the perfection of beauty hath shone.” It pleased God, however, for a particular sin of David, to send into his family the scourge of domestic discord. An unhappy event took place that awoke, and called into action, the worst of passions, in Absalom the king’s son, the passion of revenge. With a temper soured by an incident, well known to all who read the word of God, he was soon the cause of serious trouble to his father, and the people he governed. When the viler passions are once roused in the human heart, it is with difficulty they are laid. Chagrin, and disappointment, easily agree to acts of desperation. Possessed of personal accomplishments, and the arts of address, young Absalom aspired at no less than dethroning his father, and usurping the government. To obtain these, he went through the usual process of every demagogue, and insinuated himself into the favour of the people. As parade and novelty are pleasing to the great body of mankind, “he prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him:” An essay at show, borrowed from the wicked heathen nations, as unusual as it was unlawful in Israel. But a custom being unusual and unlawful, is often alone sufficient to recommend it to a race of creatures, whose “hearts are continually set in them to do evil.” To administer justice between man and man, in a great nation, is an Herculean task. It seems at this time that the judiciary department of his father’s government, was unusually crowded with business, and as it is easier to fault, than to mend the measures of our rulers, this furnished a favorable opportunity to an unprincipled and aspiring young man.—“He rose up early and stood beside the way of the gate, and it was so, that when any man had a controversy, came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him and said, of what city art thou? And he said thy servant is one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right, but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand and took him and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” The avenues to the human heart are numerous, with which designing men most commonly are pretty thoroughly acquainted. As men have refined in manners, they have refined in villainy. The state of manners with the Jews in this age, was comparatively rude; such open solicitation might now give offence. So bare a hook might now be unsuccessful in the popular stream. But the essentials of matter and manner in this business have ever been similar, and have rarely failed, when adapted to the taste and biases of a people. By “the way of the gate,” we are to understand, either the entrance of the city, or the door of the court where justice was wont to be administered: Here he harangued the litigious, the choicest materials of a demagogue. Told them that his father had become a child and incapable of managing his kingdom; that the judges whom he had appointed were either negligent of their duty or corrupt, and that bribery, and not justice, ruled in their decisions. And, that he might cover his ambition under apparent humanity, he was indiscriminately familiar with all his father’s subjects. If any man had a controversy, let it be just or unjust, he showed himself his patron and friend. On condition they would raise him to office, he not only promised them more liberty, with a regular and impartial administration of justice, and decried the neglects, wickedness, and tyranny of their lawful prince; he could descend farther, when any of the multitude did him obeisance as the king’s son, he proclaimed his equality, and gave them the fraternal kiss. Thus he stole the hearts of the men of Israel, and a more proper metaphor than theft, cannot be applied to those who seek to weaken public confidence in legitimate government, to answer their own vile purposes. For the people were bound to David his father by the constitution, by oaths of allegiance, and by his divine election and anointing as king.—When God in his providence is about to scourge a nation with such characters as Absalom, a train of incidents seems to be laid, to ensure the accomplishment of their purposes. It appears astonishing that a youth should stir up so great a portion of the people, against a king distinguished for religion, the love of his subjects, and the well earned fame of many victories. But it must be considered, that many of the partisans and favorites of Saul his predecessor, were still living, and out of place at court, who had been in the interests of Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, and who either were fearful of their personal safety, or certainly despaired of being benefited by the present administration.
The haughtiness of Joab, the captain of the king’s hosts, his impunity in atrocious wickedness, and his being suffered to march against his fellow citizens, had lessened the character of David in the eyes of the people. Other public officers probably did not excel in prudence, as a long continuance of power and prosperity, is rarely supported with dignity by the greatest characters. And what was more than all the rest; the sin of the king in the matter of Uriah, was fresh in the minds of his subjects, and had a tendency to make them anxious for their dearest possessions, and their lies. The name and infamy of Bath-sheba, was the topic of her sex, and her power was dreaded.
As an avenging God had laid all these circumstances in a train, the way was prepared for an explosion of the same passions, as were awoke by the conduct of Pisistratus in Athens, and Tarquinius in Rome.
The seeds of rebellion being thus sown in Jerusalem, Absalom, to conceal his designs from his father, could appear religious if occasion required. With apparent filial submission he requested the liberty of going to Hebron, a place about sixteen miles distant from the seat of government, to pay a vow. Meanwhile, his creatures were dispatched to every part of the kingdom, who, upon an agreed signal, were to proclaim him king.
The conspiracy soon grew so strong, that even Ahithophel, the king’s counselor, made “precious confessions” and joined it. When the intelligence arrived, that “the hearts of the men of Israel were after Absalom,” the court and family of the king were filled with consternation. It was resolved to leave the city of Jerusalem, and take refuge in the wilderness. An aged monarch flying with a remnant of his tried friends, before an unprincipled parricide [killer of parents] must have afforded a moving spectacle. As they passed the brook Kidron, it is recorded, “that all the country wept with a loud voice. David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went up barefoot, and all the people that were with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.” The good king in his troubles did not give vent to passionate language, or attempt suicide, like an unsuccessful philosopher in modern revolutions. Feeling that this scourge was soft and penitent. He pitied and forgave his enemies, and with the enlarged views of a Christian, looked up through second causes, to God the first cause. When the priests, from attachment to their aged prince, were bearing the Ark of God in his fugitive train, that it might prove his defense, he bid them carry it back into the city, with these dignified sentiments. “If I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again and shew me both it, and his habitation. But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee: behold here am I, let him do to me a seemeth good unto him.” On being informed that his friend Ahithophel had joined the conspirators, no terms of reproach escaped from his mouth, but a modest and humble ejaculation, that “the Lord would turn the counsel of Athithophel into foolishness.” The same amiable temper also marked the character of the suffering and afflicted king on his arrival at Bahurim, a village in the tribe of Benjamin. Shimei a descendant of Saul, David’s predecessor, took this occasion to express his family antipathy, by publicly cursing the king, and casting stones and dirt. Those who stood round his royal person, felt as all natural men would feel on such an occasion: they begged the liberty to go and take off his head; “no,” replied the king, “let him curse. Behold my son which came forth of my bowels seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? Let him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him.” During these transactions, Absalom and his accomplices had entered Jerusalem, with the shouts of his accomplices had entered Jerusalem, with the shouts of “God save the King.” But an unprincipled man who is base enough to pay obsequious address to the people, that he may in this way raise himself to places of power and trust, rarely fails either to betray them, or to become licentious in his prosperity. With Ahithophel as his oracle, he immediately did an act, that rendered him despicable in the eyes of all those whose favorite he had been. This counselor, whose wisdom was literally turned into foolishness, told the young usurper, that it was important to establish it in the minds of the people, that the ancient regimen was never to return, and that he and his father were never to be reconciled, and that to accomplish this end, it was politic to maintain a public incestuous intercourse with his father’s wives, and choose a select number of assassins, who might pursue, overtake, and dispatch his father and associates. The first part of the counsel pleased, and was put into execution in the sight of all Israel; and although the latter met his approbation, Absalom was over-persuaded by another designing counselor not to adopt it, but to gather the people, en masse, and pursue his opposers, and wipe them from the face of the earth.
Ahithophel, seeing that his counsel was not taken, with all the factitious dignity of a modern philosopher, who cannot brook contradiction, “arose, saddled his ass, got home to his house, and hanged himself.” As the crisis approached, in which the fate of the kingdom was to be decided in battle, we find our young demagogue rash, precipitate, and parricidal. But on the other hand, the king was cool, deliberate, and affectionate. With all the father in his eye and voice, he bid the commanders of his forces, to “deal gently for his sake with the young man, even with Absalom.” The armies encountered in the wood of Ephraim, and twenty thousand men fell by the sword on the spot, and a still greater number was slaughtered in the retreat of the insurgents. While Absalom on a mule was fleeing from his pursuers, the hair of his head, of which he had a remarkable quantity, caught in the thick boughs of an oak, “And he was taken up between the heavens and the earth, and the mule that was under him went away.”
Intelligence of his situation was brought to Joab, the king’s commander in chief, who took three spears and thrust them through his heart, “while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak.” The trumpet was blown, and the people ceased pursuing. Absolom’s body was taken down from the tree and thrown into a pit, and covered with an huge pile of stones. “And all Israel fled everyone to his tent.” Thus ended the life of an unprincipled and aspiring young man, who stole the hearts of a great people. Similar causes ever have, and ever will, produce similar effects.
The doctrine of human depravity can be proved by the history of every nation, without the aid of the holy scriptures. “A dispassionate view of human events, affords demonstration, that the fiery and destructive passions of enmity and contention, are more congenial to the natural human heart, than the mild and benevolent sentiments of peace and love.” 1 All are by nature greater lovers of their own dear selves, than of their neighbors, and the public good. And as with this temper, there cannot fail to be different interests, and different tastes and faculties, the latent causes of faction, are the hereditary, and perpetual inheritance of mankind. That a human government should ever be so constructed, as to obtain universal support and suffrage, until God has radically and universally changed the human heart, may be a pleasant dream to a philosopher, but it cannot be a reality. I hope, therefore, that I shall not be severely censured, as trespassing on ground which does not belong to my profession, while I attempt to throw in my mite, to check a spirit of disorder and indiscipline, that like a giant, seems to be bestriding the nations, and laying prostrate their government, religion, and happiness. In doing this, I wish not to be thought an enemy of necessary reform, or as unfriendly to the principles of rational liberty. “There is a time to break down, and a time to build up.” As the former, as it relates to government and religion, is more pleasing to human nature, and the latter more applicable to this country; I have, on mature deliberation, determined to risk the popularity of the following sentiments.
The sacred story to which we have been attending, may naturally lead us to consider the materials, of which factions and conspiracies have usually been composed in free governments—By what methods these materials have been brought into action—And what has been the general issue; With the practical inferences thence arising.
I. The materials of all conspiracies against good government, have always been composed of ignorant, or wicked, subjects or citizens. “It is easy and natural for weak, and uninformed minds, to construe zeal for an efficient government; as evidential of a heart fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of civil liberty.” 2—Hence, much opposition has made its appearance from the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceiving jealousies and fears. But there would be little danger from the ignorant, were they not spurred to action by the ambitious, aspiring, and abandoned. An ignorant man can only be pitied, who is the mere puppet of a fly intriguer, that, like a mountebank, fits behind the screen, and manages him before the spectators for his own emolument.—The wicked, and unprincipled, are much the most formidable class of citizens, which all good governments are in danger of having arrayed against them. While the ignorant may be enlightened and reformed, the unprincipled rarely yield to the force of truth, but are obstinate in error, and will not be persuaded “although one rose from the dead.” The desperate characters, always increase in proportion to the ease with which the means of wealth and luxury, can be obtained, and are the same in all ages and countries. Perhaps a more perfect description cannot be given of them, than that of the Roman Orator, when informing the Roman Senate, what characters had joined Cataline’s conspiracy. Although the description is familiar to the school-boy, it may not be improper to repeat it.
“The first class, consists of those, who having great debts, but still greater possessions, are so passionately fond of the latter, that they cannot bear the thoughts of infringing them. This, in appearance is the most honorable class, for they are rich: but their intention and aim are infamous. The next consists of those, who though oppressed with debt, yet hope for power, and aspire at the chief management of public affairs; imagining they shall obtain those honors by throwing the state into convulsions which they despair of during its tranquility. The third; those who coming to the sudden and unexpected possession of great wealth, have run into all the excesses of luxury and profusion. These, by building find houses, by affluent living, splendid equipages, numerous attendants, and sumptuous entertainments, have plunged themselves so deeply in debt, hat in order to retrieve their affairs, they must recall Sylla from his tomb. The fourth; a mixed, motley, mutinous tribe, who have been long ruined beyond hopes of recovery, and partly through ill management, and extravagance, are persecuted with arrests, judgments, and confiscations. The fifth are parricides, assassins, and ruffians. The last are debauched with city extravagance, such as you see with curled locks, neatly dressed, whose whole labor of life, and industry in watching, are exhausted upon midnight entertainments. Under this class we rank all gamesters, and the lewd and lustful of every denomination. These slim delicate youths, practiced in all the arts of hollow-hearted politeness, not only know to sing and dance, but on occasion can aim the murderous dagger, and administer the poisonous draught.” 3 Such characters, with few exceptions, are the natural enemies of all governments, and readily embrace revolutionary principles. In short—every government that has for its object, “the punishment of evil doers, and the praise of those that do well;” to parody the sentiments of the same author, is a contest of integrity with treachery, of piety with profaneness, of honor with baseness, of moderation with unbridled licentiousness, of sound reason with depraved understanding and frenzy. In a word, it is a struggle of equity, temperance, prudence, and magnanimity, with iniquity, luxury, idleness, and rashness. In a wicked world, the materials are always at hand, to revolutionize for the worse, and with a few frantic or theoretic philosophers, as pioneers, are easily brought to attack the fortresses of public tranquility, of national happiness and security.
II. In the second place as proposed, let us spend a moment in showing how the materials of faction and conspiracy, are, and have been marshaled, against order, and the empire of the laws. And here I would premise, that where the great body of a people are vicious, and there is a weak executive, it is no great achievement to overturn, or check the progress of the best civil constitution. A foolish Greek could burn a spacious temple, in which the highest skill of architecture was displayed, and the wealth and labor of many nations was collected. A very weak hand may throw down that which it requires wisdom and strength to rear, and a very boy, by casting a stick or stone, can stop a piece of mechanism, which it required ages to invent and mature. A French writer boasted that one Voltaire was sufficient to overthrow a system, which it required twelve apostles, and a host of martyrs to establish. To wish bishop Horne replies in the following striking similitude. “When a candle burns, and gives light to a house, many wonderful things contribute to the phenomenon. The fat of an animal is the work of the Creator, or the wax of a bee is made by his teaching, the wick is from the vegetable wool of a singular exotic tree, much labor of man is concerned in the composition, and the elements that inflame it are those by which the world is governed. But after all this apparatus, a child or a fool may put it out, and then boast that the family are left in darkness, and are running one against another. Such is the mighty achievement of Mr. Voltaire; but with this difference that what is real darkness, he would call illumination.” 4 The same may be applied to government. In the history of republics in particular, how often have conceit, the ambition, and obstinacy of individuals, who have had credit enough to make their passions and caprices, interesting to mankind. While we peruse their annals, we are ready to exclaim with the Apostle, “behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth!”
The materials of faction and conspiracy, have usually been marshaled against order and the empire of the laws, in one or all of these three ways. By addressing men’s passions, and flattering their prejudices—By misstating and discoloring facts—And by humoring the taste of the age.
1. Ambitious and designing men commonly address men’s passions and flatter their prejudices. This was abundantly the case with the aspiring young man, to whose history we have been attending. In his exile with the king of Geshur, he had learned the stile of a vicious court, and the pomp of royal magnificence. And as the Jews passionately desired a king, like other nations, his first appearance, as heir apparent, was with profusion of chariots and footmen, and his first addresses to the prejudices of the soured, discontented, and litigious. Error always addresses the passions and prejudices; truth scorns such mean intrigue, and only addresses the understanding and the heart. The worst enemies of free governments are scarce discernable, they dip in the same dish, and like a distinguished member of an ancient and innocent family, talk much of the poor, but have their own vile purposes to serve, by this shew of benevolence and humanity. So long as the world exists, there will be an inequality in personal talents, and property, which will be a source of continual envy and jealousy to those who do not possess them. He who on every occasion, seeks to increase this envy, and spread this natural jealousy of the great body of mankind, against talents and wealth, will rarely fail to meet with success. To defend, on every occasion, the supposed privileges of such characters, as were marked by the Roman Orator, to embrace, not only their interests, but adopt their capricious passions, cherish their presumption, indulge their rapacity, gratify their taste for pleasure without expense, and feed their antipathy to all governmental restraints, is one of the grand secrets of revolutionizing. The specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people, is a favorite dress of lurking and dangerous ambition, and the turbulent, and aspiring, always reproach their government. “Such as walk after the flesh,” faith the Apostle, “despise government, presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.” “With a shew of humility,” faith the Psalmist, “they lie in wait secretly as a lion in his den; they lie in wait to catch the poor; they crouch and humble themselves, that the poor may fall by their strong ones.”
There are but few recorded in the annals of mankind, who have destroyed liberty, and prostrated free governments, who did not begin their career, in these obsequious arts of demagogy [gaining power by arousing emotions and prejudices], and end in tyranny. The exact point between power and liberty, never was, and perhaps never will be found, in this imperfect state; this is a precious circumstance to the unprincipled, as it affords a plausible pretence for perpetual change.
From the disorders hence arising, that have disgraced republics, the advocates of despotic power, have drawn arguments, not only against republicanism itself, but against the very principles of civil liberty. As instability, injustice, confusion, and foreign influence, introduced into public councils, have been the mortal diseases, under which popular governments have everywhere perished: tyrants have taken heart; and nations, to be more safe, have often been willing to be less free. Such general joy, perhaps, never pervaded Great-Britain, as at the restoration. Charles II. with all his vices, was esteemed a blessing, compared to the tyranny of an unstable parliament, and the lordliness of the Protector.
But, says a writer whose words I have already used, “If liberty is to faction, what air is to fire, an ailment, without which it expires, it would be as foolish to wish to destroy liberty, because it nourishes faction, as it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is necessary to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.” 5 Although that liberty, which at present is contended for in Europe, would be better resembled by a tiger, than a goddess, there is yet such a thing as rational liberty, which it is hoped the nations will not be discouraged from attempting, by the madness of the present times; and, that oceans of blood will not be shed in vain. It is one of the curses of the apostasy, that men can never rest satisfied with the mean of all extremes. The most popular writers on government, in this age, have taken almost the directly opposite ground, from those in former ages. Instead of attempting to define the portion of power, necessary for the very existence of government, their whole genius is spent, in inquiring into the possible consequences of power. It is easier to discolor, and disfigure, and by the dexterous arts of political legerdemain, to transform real existences, into hydras and gorgons, than to traverse the wide field of experiment. And, as obscurity, is much oftener in the passions and prejudices of the reasoned, than in the subject, many, through their untoward biases, have become so entangled by words, and names, that, “while they promise liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption.”
2. Ambitious and designing men, accomplish many of their purposes, by misstating, and discoloring facts. As the government of Israel, was established by God himself, there is little reason to suppose, that the vile suggestions of Absalom, had any more foundation, than those of the first great disorganizer, “the liar from the beginning.” Aspiring men, of all sinners, have the greatest antipathy to light. Their counsels, like those of pandemonium, must be held in that light, which in scripture is called great darkness, to be successful. In the terrible convulsions, that have happened in ancient republics, and kingdoms, the true causes were rarely apparent to the great mass of the people, till after their effects were produced. As a harpooner more easily draws the heart’s blood of the monarch of the deep, by setting him a flouncing at a cork, or buoy, than by an open and direct attack; there have been few instances of successful demagogy, where some cork, or buoy, has not been thrown out, on which the populace might flounce, and spend their rage and strength until they might be taken at pleasure. When Pausanias, of Lacedemon, thought himself too great to remain a subject to his government, he flattered the Helots and the Missinians—slaves that were ever ready to rebel against their masters—and secretly corresponded with the enemies of his country. While he was inviting the assistance of the Persian monarch, to help him enslave his fellow citizens, he was visibly the poor man’s friend, and wept over the evils of aristocracy. The same methods of self-aggrandizement, with little variation, were pursued by Pericles and Alcibiades of Athens; by the Gracchi, Sylla, Marius, Cataline, and Caesar, in Rome; by Oliver Cromwell, in England; by Marat, and that succession of decapitated villains, who, of late, rode on the whirlwind, and directed the storm of a national mob. Some cunningly devised pretence of public good, or some imaginary monster of despotic power, has always been the standard, to rally men from their ordinary occupations, to butcher one another, and wallow in blood.
Taught to view with awe, or admiration, those in public stations; the merit or odium of measures, to which numerous unforeseen causes may have contributed, has ever been imputed to men, and not to circumstances.—“Party spirit,” says an anonymous writer, “rarely rushes to the front of the stage, brandishing his bloody arm over the affrighted crowd, but he wanders behind the scenes, presents his dark lantern, aims the assassinating dagger, cuts the sinews of public confidence, and poisons the fountain of social life.” Under this head may be ranged the forging of private correspondences, the fabricating of offensive anecdotes, and obnoxious innuendoes, mutilating and distorting the measures of the men in authority. Like the cry of Fire! Or, Stop thief! Set up by felons in populous cities, private plunder and emolument, has been the object of those who found an alarm, “that your liberty is menaced,” in countries constitutionally free and happy.
3. Demagogues always humor the taste of the age. The love of pre-eminence is one of the strongest principles in man. And it is curious to trace this love in all its effects. Though the tastes and pursuits of different ages, may be different, we shall always find the original principles in man, the same, and designing men, like bubbles, ever riding on the top of the popular stream. In the ruder ages of the world, the darling pursuit of mankind, was war, military glory, and conquest, and the most successful madman was the idol of the people. When heathenism was swept away by the power of the Christian religion, even the innocent, and meek religion of Jesus, became the instrument to obtain popular applause. The love of pre-eminence, led some to climb mountains, and build towers, on which they might stand, and show their extraordinary devotion. Others shut themselves up in monasteries, and nunneries, to evince their deadness to the world, and the nighness [nearness], in which they lived to God, or went to drive infidels from the holy land. In another age, the same spirit sought a reform, and really altered many abuses, but hastened into the opposite extreme, until even reformation itself wanted reforming. The singular revival of religion, in this country, half a century since, in which, no doubt, the spirit of God was remarkably poured out, and much good accomplished, is also illustrative of the same idea. Men, for pre-eminence sake, were effected in their bodies, as well as their minds, saw extraordinary appearances, cried out in high transports, preached, prayed, and exhorted loud and earnestly, sang through the streets, and were indiscreetly and hastily zealous. But, because the taste and manners of the times, are altered, we are not to suppose, that the spirit, which led in the extravagances of those days, is now asleep. The same love of pre-eminence, that once made zealots, and crusaders, now makes skeptics. Decent irreligion, now assumes to itself, the same airs, and indulges the same rancorous censure. When Absalom would go to Hebron, to pay a vow, religion was made the stalking horse, and sacrifice, the shouting horn, of sedition and usurpation.
But, demagogues are not now to be looked for, in the seats of religion; for this has not now the chief seat in the synagogue. The tide of the world, is not setting this way; and, men whom the sin of Diotrephes, easily besets, always follow the tide. It is not in fashion to kneel before crucifixes, but to worship, and adore human reason, falsely so called; and, the age of relics, is now spending itself on testacia [shelled invertebrate animals], in search of Mammoth bones, making experiments on air, or casting the age of the world from the lava of burning mountains. “Where the carcass is, the eagles will be gathered together.” The paraphernalia of the naturalist and chemist, is now substituted for the cowl, by the modern disciples of Ignatus Loyola. Were the scales of prejudice taken from our eyes, we should see, that this reading of human nature, is just; and that he who once believed in legends, and he who now doubts of self-evident propositions, are the same characters. The taste, and favorite pursuits of every age, have had their uses, but their extremes have been highly vicious. The desire to have our thoughts our own, and to be independent in sentiment, is commendable. But when we carry this desire of independence too far, it is as salacious, as it is dangerous and criminal. There is no such commanding dignity of mind, in a man’s trying to differ from his progenitors, as to government and religion, as some suspect. The unnatural productions of a hard and stupid heart, often lead a man to mistake his own restlessness for activity of genius, and his own capriciousness for sagacity of understanding. The world probably progresses in knowledge; but the analogy between the natural and intellectual systems, evinces that new thoughts are as rare as comets, and other new appearances in nature. A little acquaintance with antiquity may convince us, “that there is no new thing under the sun.” From the days of the school-men, to the present time, a great portion of enthusiasm has mixed itself with science, as well as with religion. Every age has been overstocked with imagined original geniuses, who have scourged mankind with their theories, and blinded them with new discovered light. Had the philosophers amused themselves with their categories, and predicaments, they might have been innocent and harmless lunatics. But now, unfortunately for mankind, they have turned their whole attention to the fabricating of new theories in government, and religion. Being unwilling to learn wisdom from what is past, and like anatomists make experiments on the dead, they seem to demand the world for a museum, and the living for dissection, and like “the restless iron tongue of death, to call for millions at a meal.” Nay more, they seem to be waging the war of the Titan’s, and piling the earth in heaps, to climb to heaven. They will undoubtedly meet with the same success as their fabled predecessors, and be buried by the mountains they have set in motion. In these monstrous efforts, the world has already found that “the little finger” of philosophy, “is thicker than the loins” of superstition; and that the “tender mercies” of modern liberality in religion “are cruelty”.
If Cromwell had to affect experimental religion to accomplish the toils of his ambition, by the imperious taste and manners of his day; from the prevailing taste of this age, we must expect similar characters to boast of their philosophic Christianity, of their deism and atheism; as these are the most prevalent sentiments of the once Christian world. It is not said now, “Stand by thyself and come not near to me, for I am holier than thou;’ but “stand by thyself and come not near to me,” for I know more “than thou.” The infallibility of the Pope, and the divine right of Kings, seems to have translated themselves from the conclave of superstition, to the stoa [Greek covered walkways for public use] of philosophy—From the courts of intriguing despots, to the secret, seif-created societies of modern illuminati.
Having considered the materials of which factions and conspiracies have usually been composed, and the methods by which they have been brought into action: we are guided by the passage of sacred history, to which we have been attending, to inquire the general issue.
III. When Absalom, to human appearance, had nigh accomplished his purpose, a nation afflicted with his daring ambition, and unnatural crimes, roused to oppose him. He was defeated in battle, and in the confusion of his retreat, his hair caught in the branches of an oak, and his mule went from under him, leaving him between the heavens and the earth. He died by the hand of violence, was thrown into pit, and covered with a pile of stones, and his followers, in the true stile of a mob, noisy and turbulent when successful, but mean-spirited and cowardly in defeat, “fled everyone to his tent.” In like manner the great deceiver and disorganizer, who, “from the beginning, abode not in the truth, is to be cast into the bottomless pit, that he may deceive the nations no more.” Although “he hath now great wrath, because he knoweth that his time is short,” blessed be God, his chain hath an end. Those whom he now “leads captive at his will,” shall turn against him, and aggravate his future condemnation. The pride of Korah, and his accomplices, set up the holiness of the congregation of Israel, against its priesthood, and the power of the people against the civil magistrate, although supported by a well authenticated divine commission. The earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up. The Jews refusing to submit to legitimate government, and wasted of the partisans of faction, have ceased to be a nation, are dispersed through the world, and are hated and despised of all men. The history of the Grecian, Roman, and French republics, those Vesuviuses of impassioned man, to which allusions have already been made, might here be read. It is distressing to a benevolent mind, to survey the struggles of parties, the proscriptions, the massacres, and assassinations, that have been guided by popular villains, ever issuing in their own, and their country’s ruin. Not an instance can be found, of one, who flattered and misled the people, but either he perished in the storm he had raised, or ended in the salacious glory of a Caesar. Indeed,
“’Tis in common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber upward turns his face:
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks into the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.” 6
When Absalom got into precarious power, we find him no more the fawning sycophant of the majesty of the people. We hear no more of his kissing and bowing, or tender wishes to redress the wrongs of his injured fellow citizens. He forgot his ladder, grew giddy with its height, and fell. And an instance is challenged, where the leaders of factions and conspiracies, under mild governments, or those simple ones that are led by the magic sounds of visionary liberty, have ever gained anything by change. Both have always lost. Even where a nation has been considerably oppressed, when they have attempted to break their shackles at the instance of popular courtiers, they have ever resembled the man, who took “seven other spirits more wicked than himself;” their last state, has ever been worse than their first. In a word—of demagogues it may be said universally, with Mr. Pope, as of man whose self-love has lost reason’s comparing balance,
They’ve “meteor like,” flam’d “lawless thro’ the void,
“Destroying others; by” themselves “destroy’d.”
Having considered the materials, of which factions and conspiracies have usually been composed, in free governments; by what methods they have been brought to act; and what has been the general issue. Your patience is craved, while a few practical inferences are made from the subject.
1. Personal accomplishments, ad brilliant talents, are no infallible evidences, that a man will make a good ruler. We read nothing of Absalom’s wisdom, virtue, or learning, in the laws of his country, or of any distinguished, disinterested, and patriotic achievement. His first introduction in the sacred memoirs is on this wise; “In all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot, even to the crown of his head, there was no blemish in him.” Personal accomplishments, and brilliant talents, have in a few solitary instances, made an happy assemblage with distinguished virtues. But more generally, they have been the scourge of their possessors, and of the world. The moment a man is conscious of them, he is undone; for he immediately thinks himself born to command; walks with fastidious contempt over the ashes of his ancestors; and growing delirious with his own supposed originality, he sees “luminous periods,” and the “splendors of a bright and glorious day,” marching before him.
But, after all, brilliant talents have imposing charms, and will command respect, and this is not one of the lesser evils of elective governments. In giving our suffrages, we insensibly forget, that a sound mind stored by industry and fortified by religious principles, is always the most useful in church and state.
It does not occur that belles-lettres and legislation have little connection, and that popular assemblies have ever suffered more for the want of candid, and dispassionate hearers, than dashing, and imposing speakers. The former, commonly bear the heat and burden of the day, while the latter are rarely seen in their seats, but on subjects, in which they can pronounce their own eulogiums to the gallery, or flatter the prejudices, and humor the taste of the age.
2. And, with equal certainty, we may infer, that those who are most ambitious of preferment, are the least fitted for it; as the best qualified, are the most modest, and self-dissident. The love of honor and preferment, when kept within due bounds, may animate the patriot, and fire the hero. Still, however, more sacred and venerable principles, than the praise of men, claim the chief direction of human conduct. When the respect we pay to the opinions of men, encroaches on that reverence, which we owe to the Deity, to the voice of conscience, and the sense of duty, it becomes criminal, and highly dangerous. The Jewish rulers were charged, not with loving the praise of men; but, that they loved it “more than the praise of God.” When vain glory, usurps the throne of a man’s heart, the eye of his mind is turned from the ends, which it ought, chiefly, to keep in view, and there is no crime which he will not commit, to ensure his own aggrandizement. While such a character, will set himself up for sale, to do evil, virtue and worth will never cry themselves, like courtesans, in market; they blush at the thought of soliciting notice. If the splendor of office, dazzles the unthinking and unprincipled, it has, in itself, few charms to the upright and contemplative. The freedom of retirement, was long sighed for by that faithful servant of the public, who has justly been denominated, “the father of his country.” The pious, and humble, are more anxious to improve the talents they have, than to be credited with more; they connect the retributions of eternity, with the use or abuse of a post of honor. Hence they are ever modest, and dissident, and go into place from a sense of duty, rather than from the thirst of distinction. And, while aspiring thistles are trode down of every wild beast, those choice cedars, cleave to their native soil, and either gloriously keep their station in the storm, or fall with all the leafy honors of the forest at their side.
3. Those who speak of great reforms in governments, already free and happy, are dangerous characters. “While we set under the shade of our own laws,” says a nervous writer,” 7 “and feel all the cherishing benignity of our own government, it is fair almost to look with distrust and prejudice, on all prospects of change whatever.” When the caprice of innovation, and the indefinite love of political novelty, gets broad, it always ends in blood. The mildest professions and projects of reform, are, at this time, only the first steps of the scale of destruction, the initiative forms of that towering fabric of mischief, of which they meditate in their hearts. That liberty, which has been the stale pretence of change in free governments, has been subversive of all freedom: as it affords to factious leaders, a language unintelligibly imposing, and rich in the un-ideal terms of raving philosophy. In ties of seditious machinations, let us cleave to our religion, and our constitution, as the refuge of our hopes, as the haven and anchorage of freedom. The present moment calls rather restraints on licentiousness, than control of power. If we are virtuous and firm, little is to be feared from those knots of speculating politicians, who would open the flood-gates of foreign intrigue, and whelm us in the billows of tempestuous liberty.
4. From the striking resemblance between the first author of faction, and his subordinates, among men; we learn that the objections against good human governments and the divine government, are the same, of course, that the interests of pure Christianity, and real civil liberty are intimately blended. The grand object of the seducer is to weaker the confidence of creatures, in the Divine Executive. To make them believe, that “he is an hard and austere master, reaping where he has not sowed, and gathering where he has not strawed.” That he has no right, to do so absolutely, “as he will with his own.”
That, his governing by plan or “fore-ordaining whatsoever comes to pass,” his taking the praise to himself, of their formation to good subjects, and citizens, and not leaving it to the strength of their own natural principles, abridges human liberty. They think they cannot be free, while the head of government, by an exertion of power gives complexion to their habits, and keeps them through confidence in his rectitude unto salvation.
That he errs as to what ought to be supremely loved and worshipped. God declares that as he is the sum of public good, he has the sole and unalienable right to the supreme affection of his creatures, and that it is highly sinful in them to bestow it on themselves. But creatures, mistaking the habits of rebellion, for nature and reason, lay claim to an equal prerogative, and affirm, that “the potter hath” not “power over the lay, to make a vessel” to anything but “honor.” And that they have a natural right, to say “What dost thou? And, Why dost thou thus?” It seems a stretch of power in God, to “give none account of any of his matters.” And it is the united decree of all his discontented subjects; “We will not have” God “to rule over us,” in this imperious and sovereign manner. 8 Nay, it is carried without a dissenting voice, by all the partisans of the father of lies, that there shall be “No God:’ 9 No supremely perfect, and unalterable law; no penalties of perpetual imprisonment for men’s dong as they please; Hell, like a Bastile of despotism, has public consent to be demolished, or be converted into a penitentiary, and all the lusts are to be manumitted by the majesty of the people. I should not dare treat these grave truths in this manner, did I not feel it to be of importance, to impress this audience with the striking resemblance there is between the objections that are made, against that system of divine government revealed in the scriptures, and good human governments. The popular notions of opposing human governments, although in many instances just, need not pass for anything new, or originally pure in the heart of man. However, I hope none will construe this, as evidencing a heart unfriendly to civil liberty. No, let every tyrant, whatever name or garb he may assume, be brought to the dust, and the oppressed of every nation, hew the chains unnecessarily imposed, “link from link.” But let them take heed how they strike at the prerogative of the Most High. Contending with the Almighty will not “instruct him.” And he that reproveth God, must answer it. That which has been done by wicked men, ever since the apostasy, against the king of heaven, is now doing against good government. Satan, in every shape, still appears “an angel of light,” and would, if it were possible, deceive the very elect. The grand object of that fungous growth of mock patriotism, which is generated and nourished by the sunshine of real liberty, has been to destroy systems of human good, and to arm vice against virtue, confusion against order, and licentiousness against law. To cut the nerves of wholesome restraint, to bring into contempt those, who are “ministers of God for good,” to the righteous, and lead “all the world a wondering after some beast” of human imagination. The materials of opposition, the manner in which they have been brought to act, and the general issue in both instances, as it respects God, and the good ruler, always have, and always will be the same—And although “order will eventually spring out of confusion, and light out of darkness;” these addresses to men’s passions, this flattery of their prejudices, this misstating and discoloring of fact, this humoring the taste of the age, are exclusively those engines of Appollyon, which “brought death into the world and all our woe.” These have made the earth, an Aceldema, and a Golgatha, and portend the torments of the factious and seditious, in a world, where mad, ferocious, and unchecked democracy, will forever reign in all its fiery horrors.
5. If the divine government, and free, benevolent, human institutions, are so connected in principle and practice, if they have the same objects, and the same enemies, infidels in religion, to be consistent with themselves, should they become the enemies of good government; and those who profess Christianity, and oppose such government, ought justly to be numbered with infidels. For, “What concord hath Christ with Belial? Or, What part hath he that believeth, with an infidel?” and vice versa. Those who oppose governments of energy, ground their theories on the innocence, and perfectability of human nature, on the sufficiency of man’s natural light, for the purposes of attaining virtue and happiness, without external aid; and attribute all the ills, that have befallen men, to government and religion. If this be true, government, that has power, is an evil, and religion, that aids such power, is a scourge.
To uphold government, while infidels at heart, and revere religion, only as an engine of civil policy, is a severer censure of human nature, than is given in the scriptures. Although men, in the sacred canon, are called fools in a moral sense, they are never called so in a natural sense. But the infidel, upholding energetic government, and praising religion, only, as its convenient beast of burden, brands the whole race as idiots, of course, saps his own favorite dignity of human nature, and the sufficiency of human light. Indeed, whatever way we turn, there will be a palpable absurdity, between the love of strength in government, and the hatred of religion; and the love of religion, and the hatred of religion; and the love of religion, and the hatred of strength in government. As a sense of moral obligation, must be greatly impaired before men are fitted to oppose such a government of their own making, we hence find all zealous disorganizers, somewhere on that climax of error, that begins, in what is called, modern liberality in religious sentiment, and ends in atheism. And, with very few exceptions, we find all those who understand, and embrace the religion of the fathers, or what have been called the leading doctrines of the Christian church, “obedient to the powers that are,” reverencing good magistrates, loving, and cleaving to their country, “for conscience sake.” Why every infidel does not oppose a government of restraints, must be, that he either does not know its tendency, or is ignorant of his own heart, and what manner of spirit it is that actuates him. He is bewildered, and has lost the company congenial to his soul; or he is a living argument in favor of the worth, and truth of Christianity, by wishing to live under the mild influence of its habits, and principles.
I am called to speak, on this occasion, at an eventful period, and at an eventful crisis, with this country. Although I glory in the character of the state which gave me birth, admire the diffusion of her knowledge, her habits of order, and her blessed institutions, I dare not defy the fascinating charms of innovation. Vice, and irreligion, have earth and hell on their side, and are the mortal foes of that symmetrical edifice, which was reared by the painful labors, and has continued, hitherto, by the prayers of our ancestors. Infidelity, with a zeal that would become a better cause, and with the rigor of St. Dominic, is encompassing sea, and land, to make its proselytes; of whom when made, it may be truly said, as of those converted to a proud and haughty Jewish sect, they are “two fold more the children of hell.”
If the mountains, and uninviting soil of Switzerland, have not been sufficient “walls and bulwarks,” to save her from the rapacity of marauding strangers, let us not boast of safety from an intervening ocean. Satan, intent on mischief, could spread a bridge on chaos, to mar the happiness of paradise, and sow sedition. Were we virtuous, and united, we should, under providence, have nothing to fear. But the shameful secret, that our country has its parricides, is out, and our enemies cast it in our teeth.—A military despotism, under the vile pretence of giving freedom to mankind, has once plundered the world, and may again. If our most intelligent divines, have understood the prophecies, little is to be expected for a century, or more, than “the distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea, and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear; as the Lord, in his glory, and majesty, has arisen to shake terribly the earth.” After looking to God, the eyes of good men are next turned to virtuous rulers, the genuine, tried, and approved friends of the government, religion, and happiness of their country.
No lover of his country’s true glory, can turn his eye to yonder empty feat, without exclaiming, “Help Lord, for the godly man ceaseth: for the faithful fail from among the children of men.” While every breeze from Atlantic, bears on its wings the increased rumor of war, and trouble, this state have had to lament, in quick succession, the death of a worthy Governor, an able Chief Justice, and a venerable Father in the gospel ministry.
“Those suns are set; O! rise some other such,
Or all that we have left, is empty talk
Of old achievements, and despair of new.”
But, I trust in God, that he has still left us some faithful helmsmen, who, for a time at least, will steer us from the shores, whitened with human bones, and guide us through the rocks of Syren liberty. Of modern Liberty; that harpy, who, like the fabled daughters of Oceanus and Terra, has hooked claws, and looks pale for plunder; that prophetess of evil, who takes her seat on desolation, tints the viands of social life with her defiling touch; than which, no monster is more fell, no plague, or scourge of gods more cruel, ever issued from the Stygian waves. 10 But hold! “Michael disputing with the devil, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, the Lord rebuke thee.” While all the horrors of faction and conspiracy, are developed by the sacred story to which we have been attending, we have a counterpart in the conduct of David and his friends. They submitted to the hand, which, in such an awful manner, chastised a nation’s, and its ruler’s sins. They wept aloud, not for fear of man, but through reverence and fear of that God who was visibly punishing them. Their hearts were soft and penitent. They pitied and forgave their enemies, and, with the enlarged views of Christians, looked up to God, “who makes the wrath of man to praise him,” and will suffer it to proceed no farther, than is compatible with his wise and holy counsels. Instead of humoring the thirst of innovation, they clung to their ancient institutions, for political order, and safety.
Submitting to the stones, and dirt, the railing, and slanderous curses of apostate and discontented Shimeis, it behoves both rulers, and ruled, with all modesty, to inquire, wherefore it is, that “the Lord hath bidden” them. Have we not reason to fear, that these are the fruits of secret infidelity, in the desk? And of secret, and open infidelity in the senate? Is it now owing to breaches, plausibly made in our ancient habits, and customs, those walls of our sheepfold, that these wolves are entering? Have we no Joabs, grown haughty, and negligent, by long continuance in office, no negligent, subordinate ministers of justice? I pray God, that the proposed day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, may be devoutly kept. And that all good citizens, for once, with godly sorrow for sin, will bend their knees around the altar of prayer, for their country. If “God is for us who can be against us?”—And if he is against us who can be for us? His protection alone, is a nation’s strength. He is “the God of wisdom,” and the God of battles. Let our honorable Legislators remember, that it is emphatically true of men in high stations, that “one sinner destroyeth much good,” and much depends on them, whether dignity, and influence, are to be given to vice, and irreligion. Although the mouth of discontented ambition can never be stopped and the querulous tongue of licentiousness will never rest, until the grandeur of government shall be unveiled, which will impose silence on all lips, it is important, that you “let not your good be evil spoken of,” and give none “occasion to the enemies of the Lord, to blaspheme.” The cause of Christianity has been more ably argued by recent events in Europe, than it can be by the pen, or tongue of man. While infidelity has been writing its inferences in blood, we must view it as an happy omen, to this and the neighboring States, that so many young rising characters, have been driven from the open and exposed fields of skepticism, to the fastnesses of moral institutions. May their speculative conversion, be followed by a change of heart, and they experience those consolations in the religion of Jesus, which have ever proved a support, a light and a shield to pious rulers, under the honor and dignity, as well as the sufferings and reproaches of office. As the Christian religion is the genius, the life, and spirit of real liberty, and the true foundation of national happiness and greatness, let its ministers glory in their profession. If many of us are straightened in temporalities, and yet reproached as hirelings by the licentious, let us not be discouraged. Patriotism, as well as love to God and men, call us to fidelity in our noble employment. Liberty, exiled from Europe, crossed the Atlantic with our predecessors in office, and under their tutelage, she here erected her standard. Our rulers can frame free constitutions, and enact mild and wholesome laws, but they must apply to us, as instruments in the hands of providence, to make wholesome inhabitants, and form a free people. Sin stains the glory, darkens the luster, and degrades the rank of rational creatures. All men, who know not the glorious “liberty of the sons of God,” are by nature slavish, and will have a master. A knight-errant may strike from the hands and feet of our body, the shackles of despotic power, or the conqueror of Italy can say a nation is free; and yet, they may be bound in chains, which defy the steel of valor to fever, and the united “wisdom of this world” to unloose. The chains of the soul, the fetters of the mind and heart, do not melt at human touch; the Lord hath anointed us alone, to proclaim liberty to such captives, and the opening of the doors to these vassals imprisoned of their sins. “Seeing that many glory after the flesh,” I trust that good men will “bear with us a little in our folly, if we glory also.” 11
Finally, and to close—The whole subject may with propriety be addressed to those who “despise government, and are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.” And of these, I hope, there are few in this numerous assembly. It is to be acknowledged that many plausible things can be said in favor of error, and that man is, by nature, fonder of darkness than light. Still, can you suppose, granting that you can inflate the world with the temporary frenzy of infidel fanaticism, that it will be lasting; or that human nature, will of itself, lay aside a character it has uniformly maintained for six thousand years, of finally “turning and rending,” those who impose on its credulity. There may be countries where nothing would be lost, and everything gained by subverting and palsying the government. But no man whose conscience is not “feared as with a hot iron,” can apply this to our own. If the first great enemy of government, and all who have followed his steps, have lost themselves, and all who have followed his steps, have lost themselves in the mists of enchantment they have raised, it is worthwhile to count the cost, before that, with industrious malignancy, you attempt to raise one in this enlightened State. Should you, as Vreede and Hooffe, those exclusive Dutch patriots, fawn like spaniels at the feet of our oppressors, for troops to strangle your country with liberty: 12 we are neither a nation vitiated by long continued commerce, nor effeminate Italians. It would be attended with not a little difficulty, to make us, like wretched Venice, the mere cents and Milles of partitioning powers. If you have any possessions that are dear to you, can you expect them to be inviolate, amidst the jarring elements of universal uproar? As you may yet fail, to spring up Tetrarchs and Proconsuls, from the ashes of your humbled and divided country, and the blood of her citizens, leave that low and base thirst of fame, that craves those honors from foreigners, which you are too vicious and too indolent to merit from your own fellow-citizens. Pray be as honorable as ambitious Caesar, who had rather be first in a village, than second in the city of Rome—cast away the bitter leaven of party spirit. “Repent of this thy wickedness” towards thy mother country, on whose lap thou hast been dandled, and from whose breasts thou hast drawn the stamina of lite; “and pray God if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.”—“Now to the God of peace;”—“to the God of order, and not of confusion”—Be glory forever.
A M E N.