Sermon – Election – 1800, Massachusetts







Before The

The Council,

And The

Honorable The Senate,


House of Representatives

Of The

of Massachusetts

May 18,


The Day Of



By Joseph
McKeen, A.M.

Pastor of the
First Church in Beverly.


Ordered- That Moses Brown and James Burnham,
Esquires, and Mr. John Stephens, be a Committee to wait on the Rev. Mr. McKeen,
of Beverly, and in the name of the House, to thank him for his Discourse this
day delivered before the Hon. Council and the two Branches of the Legislature,
and to request a copy thereof for the Press.


Matthew 5- Latter part of the Verse.


A city that is
set on a hill, cannot be hid.

The divine author of our holy
religion addressing his immediate disciples, suggested to them the
distinguished part they should be called to act in erecting his kingdom of righteousness and truth in the world.

He well knew that many would estimate
the character and worth of his religion by its visible influence on their
conduct. If they imbibed its genuine spirit, and exhibited in
their deportment a just specimen of its purity,
they would
recommend it to the consciences of men. But should they, on the contrary, practically disregard its doctrines and precepts, they would incur
the suspicion of propagating a cunningly devised fable for selfish purposes,
unfriendly to the general interest and happiness of mankind.

That they might act their part with dignity
and fidelity, with honor to themselves, and advantage to their fellow men, it
was necessary that their minds should be impressed with a deep sense of the
importance of the work assigned them, and of their high responsibility. Their
every word and action would acquire new importance from their office, and would
invite the critical attention of friends and foes. The former would be likely
to defend and imitate even their foibles, and the latter to exaggerate them
into crimes of magnitude to the disadvantage of them and their cause. It
behooved them therefore to remember that all eyes were upon them, and that, to
guard their own reputation, and promote the best interest of mankind,
their whole conduct should be governed by wisdom and integrity. A City that is
set on a hill cannot be hid.

The same observations are in a degree
applicable to all men, who fill important offices in the Commonwealth.

Many will always form their opinion
of a government from what they know of the characters of the men who administer
it. They are better judges of the private characters of men, with whom they are
conversant, than they are of the constitutionality, propriety, or tendency of
their political measures. When a government is administered by men of acknowledged
wisdom and rectitude, it will have the confidence, attachment and support of
good men. When it is administered by men, whose characters are vile or
contemptible, it will be abhorred or despised.

That rulers therefore may in the best
manner answer the end of their elevation, it is desirable that their private as
well their official conduct should command the respect of every beholder. To do
this, brilliancy of talents is by no means the most essential requisite. It is
far from being necessary, for instance, that every member of a deliberative assembly
should be qualified to shine as a public speaker.
A sound judgment, and a general knowledge of the public interest, are necessary
to the discharge of the duties of their places with reputation to themselves,
and advantage to the community; but these endowments and qualifications for
usefulness will not ensure them the respect and confidence of an enlightened
and free people, unless they are reputed men of virtue. The greater their
abilities and knowledge are, if they are believed to be destitute of moral
principle, the more they will be objects of fear and distrust. The servile and
corrupt will seek their favor, and expect to gain it
by their readiness to co-operate in the execution of base designs; but
good men, alarmed and discouraged, will retire into the shade, accounting in such a state of things a private
station the most honorable post. It is obviously, then., of great importance
that men in places of public trust, authority and honor, should be not only
truly virtuous, but unsuspected. It is conceived to be more necessary in a
free, than to a despotic government. In
the latter, force is the instrument that is principally relied on to preserve the public tranquility; but
in the former, much is to be done by instruction, persuasion and example.
The influence of these will be felt by the well-disposed, who will be
gently drawn into a combination in favor of the order and happiness of
society, which will extend
its.benign influence over others less informed and less
virtuous. In a design
so laudable and patriotic,
it may be reasonably
expected that virtuous rulers will lead the way. The happiness
of society is an object, which they
always keep in view. And it is
believed that in
many cases their example will contribute not less
efficaciously than their statutes
to the real respectability and permanent prosperity
of the State.

It has pleased God in his gracious
providence to grant us the singular privilege of deliberately framing, and
freely adopting, constitutions of government, for the express purpose of
securing our freedom, and promoting our welfare. Their importance and
excellence are, and ought to be, gratefully acknowledged. But, if the real
freedom of a country depends as much on the character and habits of the
people as on a written constitution, our civil fathers will give us leave to
solicit the weight of their example, authority and influence in opposition
to the mistaken notions and vices which threaten our liberty, and in favor of
the principles and virtues, which are indispensable to our freedom and

It is not thought necessary to attempt on this
occasion a formal proof of the power of example. It has been seen and felt and
acknowledged in every
age. It is
equally obvious that the example of men in places of authority and honor is
more influential, and more likely to be imitated than that of persons in
lower walks of life, especially in an elective free
republic, where there
are no hereditary distinctions of rank to prevent a free intercourse between
the people and their rulers. Their
elevation renders them conspicuous,
like a city on a hill, and naturally attracts the public attention. Besides there is a general
disposition in people to imitate the conduct
of their superiors: And, unfortunately, they learn more easily to imitate their vices than. their
virtues. For this reason men, who are clothed with power, or raised by
their wealth above their neighbors, ought to feel themselves in a degree
responsible for the behavior of those around them. The happy tendency of good
example deserves to be seriously considered by every virtuous ruler, and every real friend of his country. Blessed
be God, we have had a Washington,
whose unrivalled fame may silence the suggestions of a false
shame, and dissipate the fears of timid virtue, which dreads the charge of singularity in goodness.

Good example acts with the greater effect, because it
reproves without upbraiding, and teaches us to correct our faults without
giving us the mortification of knowing that any but ourselves, have ever
observed them. We feel the force of counsel or persuasion much more
sensibly, when we see that one does what he advises or requires us to do. But
the best counsel from one, who obeys not his own precepts, nor practices upon
the principles of his own advice, will generally be little regarded. We do not
believe a man to be in earnest, who advises one thing, and does the contrary.

To resist the progress of irreligion,
injustice, luxury, selfishness, and an impatience of legal restraint, is a duty
imposed by patriotism. And I hope my much respected hearers feel their obligation
to recommend by their own example piety, justice, economy, public spirit,
an attachment to our constitutions, and a cheerful submission to the laws, as
essential to our political happiness.
The influence of their ex ample is the more necessary at the present day, because
an attachment to old opinions and old
customs, which once exercised an
almost boundless sway over the
human mind, has lost great part of its
power, and
has given place to a passion for innovation, which rejects whatever is
old fashioned, with as little reason and as little examination as prejudice
formerly retained it. This passion indulged would prostrate the religious,
moral and political principles, which are the bulwarks of our freedom.

It has been thought by many, and still is by some, that government is the only
foe to liberty; that the people of any or every country might at
once become free and happy,
if such a
spirit of
opposition to their
oppressors could be excited as would enable
them to cast off their old chains. But experience is correcting this error.

When we cast off the British yoke, we generally apprehended the greatest danger to
our liberties from the power which must be delegated to our rulers.
Accordingly, our principal guards
were placed on that
side. Power was granted with great caution. Barriers
were erected against its abuse. Its
duration was made short. Its exercise has been watched with the eyes of
jealousy, and the right of cens
ure exercised with great freedom.
is there not equal or greater danger on the other side? The constitution of
this Commonwealth has not indeed left us unguarded against our vices; but the
importance of these guards has not in general been duly appreciated. We have
been less afraid of our vices than our rulers.

The love of liberty we inherit from our fathers; it is so
“interwoven with the ligaments of our hearts,Ó that there can be little doubt
of our enjoying it, and little danger of its being wrested from us so long
as we are capable and worthy of it. But a capacity for enjoying it depends on a
sound and healthful state of the body politic.

The more freedom we have, the more necessary is the aid
of religious and moral principles to the maintenance of order and tranquility.
When these are lost, or very much relaxed, severe restraints, which cannot
always admit of those legal forms, that are essential to the security of
liberty, become necessary; yet the people may retain a love of liberty, or
rather an impatience of restraint, as the sensualist retains a passion for
pleasure, after his constitution is so much impaired by excess, that
indulgence would be fatal to him. Liberty, like the pleasures of sense, must be
enjoyed with temperance and moderation, lest degenerating into licentiousness
it prove d
There are none, it may be presumed, who will openly avow that political
liberty is, or ought to be, a license for every one to do what is right in his
own eyes; yet where the love of liberty is strong, and its nature not
distinctly understood, there
is too often a disposition to look with an indulgent eye on
licentiousness, as only the extreme of a good thing, and therefore pardonable.
But the difference between them is greater than some imagine: They are indeed so different, as to
be incompatible in society. When one has an excess of liberty, he invades
the rights of his neighbor, who is thereby deprived of a portion of the liberty
which a free constitution promises him
. Liberty in that case becomes exclusively the possession of
the strong, the unprincipled, the artful, who makes a prey of the innocent,
weak and unsuspicious. A state of things like this is a real despotism, and of
the worst kind. It is a poor consolation to the plundered, abused sufferer to
be told, that he must not complain; for his oppressor is not an hereditary
monarch, acting by a pretended divine right, but only a fellow citizen, acting in the name of “liberty and equality.Ó

He might answer, “If I must be deprived of my liberty or
property at the will of another, let me have an hereditary master, who, secure
in the possession of his power, will oppress according to certain rules, which
long usage has sanctioned, and long experience has proved to be not
incompatible with the existence of the community. But deliver me from the
tyrant of a day, who knows no bounds to his rapacity: Deliver me from
anarchy, which rages like a fire that cannot be quenched. Established despotism,
dreadful as it is, is systematical, its operations are in some measure subjects
of calculation; but anarchy, like the hurricane, spreads horror and
devastation, and seems to rejoice in its triumph over every thing that wears
the semblance of order or utility.Ó

To some, who do not distinguish between social and
personal freedom, it may still seem a paradox that restraint should be
necessary to the being of liberty. In their view a free government and a weak
government mean the same thing. But scarce any mathematical truth admits of a
more conclusive demonstration than this, that laws wisely framed, impartially
interpreted, and faithfully executed, are essential to the liberty of a
community. Liberty cannot be long enjoyed under a government that has not
sufficient energy to be a terror to evil doers. The law is not made for the
righteous, it is not made to restrain the honest, peaceable, sober and industrious
members of society, who are a law to themselves; but it is made for the lawless
and disobedient, murderers, men- stealers, liars, perjured persons, and
others, who can be restrained only by the strong arm of power. That love of
liberty, therefore, which prompts men to resist the laws, and to overturn
or weaken the government established for the common good, is a spurious
passion, which every well informed friend to real liberty will feel himself in
duty bound to discountenance. It is not less necessary that we should
understand and practice our duties, than that we should understand and assert
our rights. The prevalence of sound virtue therefore would afford the best
security to our liberty. It is admitted, I believe, by all political writers,
that morality is absolutely necessary to the happiness of a free State. And
there is if I mistake not a growing conviction in reflecting minds that
religion is the only sure support of morality. It is with peculiar pleasure,
that we read in the valedictory address of the late illustrious president of
the United States, the following sentiments, which can never be too deeply
impressed on our minds. “Of all the
disposiions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, religion and
morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the-
tribute of patriotism who would labor to subvert these great pillars of human
happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere
politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them. A
volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply asked, where is the security for
property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation
desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in courts of
justice. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be
maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded of the influence of
refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both
forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of
religious principles.Ó

The constitution of this Commonwealth recognizes the
same important principle, and expressly declares that the happiness of a
people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially
depend upon piety, religion, and morality. It requires that any person
chosen Governor, Lieutenant- Governor, Counselor, Senator, or
Representative, and accepting the trust, shall make a declaration that he
believes the Christian religion, and has a firm persuasion of its truth.
Charity therefore forbids us to believe, without strong evidence of the fact,
that any of them will ever endeavor to destroy the foundation of our happiness
and best hopes, and thus incur the reproach which justly belongs to the
And the same charity teaches us to indulge the pleasing expectation that our
honored civil fathers will lend the influence of their example to support the
institutions of Christianity, and to attract a general attention to “public
instructions in piety, religion, and morality.Ó The excellence of
Christianity, and the good effects of which it may be productive to society,
must be acknowledged by all who seriously and impartially consider the purity
of its precepts, the tendency of its doctrines, and the power of its motives.
Yet no person, who is acquainted with the true genius of the gospel, will be
likely to suspect that it is merely a political institution; or that its
highest object is the preservation of civil order. Its great aim is to
assimilate us to the moral image of our Maker, and to make us happy in
eternity. But such is the constitution of things under the government of our benevolent
Creator, that the same temper and conduct which lead to happiness in another
world, have a tendency to make us happy in this. The spirit of genuine
Christianity universally, or even generally, imbibed, would meliorate the
condition of mankind in a higher degree, than can ever be expected from the
wisest and best institutions of a merely civil nature. Its chief
energy is leveled at the heart; its first aim is to
the fountain
of human actions, that the stream may be pure
also. By its influence on private character it makes good rulers and good citizens, and disposes them to fulfill the obligations, that result from
the various relations, in which
they respectively stand. It is the vigorous root, which supports and nourishes all those virtues, that constitute
the dignity
of human nature, and the strength
and glory of
a state.

The gospel of Jesus Christ has not prescribed any
particular form of civil government to be adopted by the nations of the
world. And it is conceived that one very good reason may be given why it has
not, which is, that the kind of government the most suitable for one, might be
the most improper for another. But as it forbids all injustice and oppression,
as it inculcates every personal, social, and divine virtue, and teaches us to
respect the rights of others, as well as to stand fast in our own liberty; it
has certainly a friendly aspect on the cause of freedom and of free
governments. The nature of the religion of Christ, therefore, and its tendency
to promote the happiness of society, and to make us meet for a heavenly
inheritance, give it a just claim to our most cordial affection. And a
recommendation of it by the example of our civil fathers will justly entitle
them to double honor.

Justice is a virtue enjoined by every government, human
and divine: And, being reputable in all countries and in all ages, every man
would be thought to practice it, yet to enforce the practice of it, and to
prevent injustice, may be considered as the chief end of government. It cannot
confer rewards on all its quiet and obedient subjects. Its business is to
protect them against the violence and injustice of others, that they may enjoy
the fruits of their industry in security and peace. This being the end for
which civil government was instituted, it is of vast importance that those, who
administer it, should act in strict conformity to the rules of justice, both in
their public and their private capacities. With how much dignity does a ruler
appear, when he can say with Job, “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me:
My judgment was as a robe and a diadem!Ó His character commands respect,
overawes the wicked, and makes him a terror to evil doers. It adds
authority to his office, and enables him to answer the end of his elevation
much more effectually, than if he were of a different character. Even good men
may sometimes find it difficult to pay due honor and respect to an office,
when they must despise him who holds it.

A scrupulous adherence to the principles of justice
is necessary to procure for a government that respect and confidence, without
which it cannot in the best manner effect the design of its institution. When a
government defrauds individuals, it may be naturally expected that they will
retaliate when they have opportunity: And they will do it with the less
compunction or remorse, because it may seem the only practicable mode of
obtaining redress. The government in this way contributes to the corruption of
the public morals, and strengthens a pernicious opinion entertained by too
many, that there is a real opposition between the interest of the government
and that of the people. Injustice on the part of government deprives it of its
best support, the confidence of good men. It provokes a spirit of hostility,
which is followed by a series of oppressions and frauds, producing and
reproducing each other, that too plainly indicate a disease in the body
politic, which must terminate in convulsion or dissolution.

The constitution of this Commonwealth declares that
“industry, temperance and frugality, are absolutely necessary, to preserve
the advantages of liberty, and to maintain a free government.Ó The same
doctrine is maintained by the most judicious historians, philosophers and
politicians. Patriotism enjoins it therefore as a duty upon all men in
public stations to make these virtues reputable by their example, and to resist
the progress of the opposite vices, luxury, extravagance and an inordinate love
of pleasure, which, as one justly observes, “enervate the soul, make fools of the
wise, and cowards of the brave.Ó

The rapid increase of wealth in our country for a number
of years is a subject of congratulation among the friends of our prosperity;
but at the same time it has excited some painful apprehensions. Its usual
concomitant luxury has kept pace with it.

Is there no reason to fear that our habits of patient
industry and economy will be impaired, and that we shall feel little
disposition to return to them, when they shall become as
necessary, as they have
been in any
former period? It cannot be expected that our career of prosperity will be
perpetual. It may meet a severe and sudden check. In any case the demands of luxury increase more
rapidly than the means of satisfying them. She is one of the daughters of the
horse- leech, which says not, It is enough.
Luxury and extravagance have a certain and direct tendency to subject individuals to embarrassments, which are
a dangerous snare to integrity, and a fruitful source of discontent and faction
in the State. They have a tendency also to produce a speculating, adventurous spirit, which cannot contribute to the
general prosperity. It is in the nature of
things impossible that every man should make a fortune by games of chance; but
it is possible that many by indulging such a spirit may involve themselves
and a multitude of innocent persons with them in want and wretchedness.

Patient industry and economy are the only certain sources
of private and, public prosperity, and they are indispensable to the
preservation of good morals. They interest men in the support of order, law and
government, without which they have no security for the possession and
enjoyment of the fruits of their own labors. While the speaker solicits
the example of men in public stations to recommend every virtue that leads
to political prosperity, he does not presume to instruct them in their official
duties. He would however in this
beg leave to express a wish that, when money is to be procured for any useful
purpose, recourse may be had as seldom as possible to lotteries. They not only
operate as a heavy tax upon the poorer class of people; but they beget
fantastic hopes and expectations, which cannot he realized, they foster a rage
for gaming which tends to the destruction of every virtuous and manly
principle, and they undermine the basis of private and public prosperity.

The importance of economy in the public expenditures
cannot have escaped the notice of any one. It begets a confidence in the
government, it encourages the people to submit to heavy burdens when they are
necessary, and it enables the State to meet the extraordinary demands, which
providing for the public safety may at any time occasion. It saves the
government from much embarrassment in case of war or invasion by means of its
credit; and prevents a temptation to have recourse to such expedients as are at
once dishonorable, and ruinous. It is however a very different thing from
parsimony. It shrinks from no burden, which the independence, liberty, safety
and honor of the community impose. It does not estimate the value of these
things by a pecuniary scale. It does not require men to devote their time and
talents to the public service without an adequate compensation. It does not
withhold the encouragement that is necessary to the progress of science, and
the improvement of useful arts. Parsimony, on the contrary, produces many of
the same evils as profusion. It begets no
confidence. It regards not the worth of objects, but inquires how much they
will cost. It holds out a constant temptation to fraud. It not unfrequently
defeats its own intentions, and by a solicitude to save trifles incurs the
necessity of making large sacrifices.

A generous public spirit is indispensable to the
happiness of a free people.

When a mercenary, selfish disposition pervades a
community, the love of country becomes a pretence; a regard to the general
welfare is professed for the purpose of deception, public employments are
sought only as the means of accumulating wealth and a wide door is open for the
practice of corruption, which in process of time may become so general, and be
so well understood, that it shall cease to be offensive. When such is the
character of a people, their degradation is far advanced, and ruin by rapid
strides is hastening on them. It is
important therefore that a generous regard to the public welfare be assiduously
cultivated. In this, as in every other view, the spirit of Christianity is
highly favorable to national respectability. This spirit imbibed by a
people disposes them to be just and benevolent, to do to others as they
would have others do to them, and to look not every man on his own things, but
every man also on the things of others. It prevents their entertaining a mean
wish that their representatives should so far forget the dignity of their
office, as to govern their public conduct by local attachments and interests,
or to as the part of mere attorneys for their respective districts, or to do in
their public capacity, what a man of probity and honor would blush to do in

The same spirit actuating legislators gives a liberal
complexion to their conduct. They
feel and act as guardians of the Commonwealth, and invariably aim to do justice
to all, and to promote the general welfare. They do not confine their views to
the short period of their political existence; but consider the tendency of
every public measure to promote the future prosperity of their country.

Were the Commonwealth a company or partnership to be
dissolved with the present legislative body, after which each individual,
detached from every other, were to shift for himself, patriotism would not
impose such, duties on our rulers, as it now does. It would not require them to
project or mature plans for the benefit of posterity, nor even of this
generation beyond the present year. They might act on the maxim of the epicure,
“Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.Ó Agriculture, commerce,
manufactures, public credit, and institutions for the promotion of science,
religion and morality, would have no claim to their support or patronage. But as the
social compact is not formed for a year or an age, but to be of the same
duration with humanity itself, the public- spirited and virtuous
guardians of the Commonwealth will consult the interest of unborn generations.
In this respect the wisdom, piety, and patriotism of the first planters of- New- England can never be too much admired. At a period, when an
invincible fortitude was necessary to surmount the difficulties at tending a
new settlement in a savage wilderness, and when their dangers and hardships
might have been thought a sufficient apology for applying all their resources
to the purpose of feeding, clothing, and defending themselves, they established
schools, provided for the religious instruction of the people, and founded a
college. Their aim was not merely to people a country: their more noble and
sublime object was to make it a seat of piety, virtue and freedom. To their
enlightened and patriotic exertions, under God, the present generation is
indebted for many of its most precious blessings, and this Commonwealth for the
very respectable rank she holds in the union. May their example in this respect
belong imitated, and their descendants prove themselves worthy of such
ancestors by cherishing their wise institutions, and inquiring, as they did,
into the remote, as well as immediate, influence of public measures on the
character and happiness of the community. Again,

An attachment to our constitutions of government in
opposition to a spirit of innovation, is necessary to the permanency of our
political prosperity. Any man, who will take the trouble to reflect, and every
man in a public station ought to reflect, because he has to think for others as
well as himself, will he convinced that innovation and reformation are not
synonymous terms.

You will do the speaker the justice to believe that he is
not the advocate of unreasonable and groundless prejudice; but he frankly
confesses that it appears to him less dangerous than a blind, impetuous passion
for changing. The evils produced by the former are capable of being estimated:
the deleterious consequences of the latter bid defiance to calculation. It is
justly remarked by a learned British
writer, now in America, that “human nature, with the various interests and
connections of men in a state of society, is so complex a subject, that nothing
can be safely concluded a priori with respect to it. It is extremely hazardous,
he adds, to introduce any material change into an established form of
government. No human sagacity can foresee what inconvenience might arise
from it.Ó If these
observations are true, and their truth will hardly be controverted by any man
of reflection, considerable changes should be the effect of necessity only.
Forms of government, and modes of administration, that have been found to
answer the end of their institution, should not be hastily changed because some
imperfections are discoverable in their theory. When experience has shown the
necessity of alterations, and they can be made without hazard to public peace
and order, let them be made. A prudent man
will not set fire to his house, and thereby endanger the lives of his family,
because some parts are not so perfectly convenient, or some of its proportions
not so agreeable to the eye, as they might be made in a new edifice.

Even necessary alterations should not be precipitated. It
is not sufficient that the necessity be perceived by a few men of superior
discernment, skilled in the science of government. Let them wait till the
conviction becomes general: and. a general conviction must be
the effect of feeling, rather than the result of reasoning. If, previous to
this, any material alteration be attempted, though it should be with good
intentions, the example will have most of the bad consequences of innovation.
It will tend to loosen the bands of society, excite a political tempest, and
give opportunity to some unprincipled, ambitious, and as yet unknown adventurer
to mount the storm, and direct its vengeance against our wisest and best men,
whose very, wisdom and goodness will in his view be crimes, which nothing but
their blood can expiate. Our honored fathers will join with all good men in
earnest prayers to the supreme Arbiter of nations, that the day may be far
distant, when so sad a catastrophe shall be realized, when the people, after
being made the instruments of their own degradation, shall pass from the hands
of one master to those of another, with as little ceremony, as if they were- beasts of burden. And we feel a confidence that the legislature of
Massachusetts will set an example of attachment to her own and the federal
constitutions worthy of the imitation of other legislatures; as well as her own
citizens. Lastly, a cheerful submission to the laws is indispensable to our
political happiness.

In a government like ours the rulers can make no law that
does not affect themselves equally with their constituents. This affords a high
degree of security that all our laws will be dictated by a regard to the
general good, and that no restraint will be laid upon individuals, which does
not conduce in a greater degree to the public happiness. Interest therefore
as well as duty enjoins a prompt obedience.

But as there are many, and perhaps always will be,
in a large community, who do not perceive that they gain more by the restraints
laid on others, than they lose by those laid on themselves, it is of great
importance that rulers set an example of cheerful obedience to the laws. If
they do not, they will be suspected of having had improper views in enacting
them: And the laws will be hated or despised. It is justly required of the
ministers of religion that they teach by example: It is not less necessary
in a free State that rulers should govern in the same way.

Their personal examples and influence may do more than
their statutes to discountenance impiety and vice, to promote a religious
observance of the Christian Sabbath, to check the progress of infidelity
and licentiousness, and to make us a virtuous and a happy people.

Addresses of congratulation to the first and second
Magistrates in the Commonwealth have been usual on this anniversary. But it has
pleased the all- wise GOD, whose counsels and ways are
incomprehensible by us, to remove both of them by death in the last political

Soon after its commencement we were called to mourn the
loss of our amiable and worthy Governor Sumner, whose spirit of
government, happily tempered with moderation, and guided by wisdom
and integrity, eminently qualified him for the exalted station, to which for
several successive years he was invited by the general suffrages of his fellow- citizens. We had indulged the pleasing hope of long tranquility under his
government; but his death afforded an affecting illustration of the propriety
of that scriptural admonition, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son
of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to
his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.Ó

By a recent stroke his Honor Lieutenant- Governor
Gill is also numbered with the dead, after having discharged for nearly a year
the duties of the first Magistrate with zeal and fidelity, and after having
received the approbation of his constituents, expressed by their almost
unanimous reelection of him to fill the station, which he had holden for a
number of years.

It would have been peculiarly pleasing to see the people
of this large and respectable Commonwealth happily united in the choice of a
first Magistrate to succeed his late Excellency Governor Sumner. But in a free
elective government it cannot be thought strange that the eyes of the people
should be turned towards different persons to fill so important an office. We indulge
however the expectation that there will be a general and cordial acquiescence
in the will of the majority; as we doubt not a great part of the majority have
full confidence, that the Character, to whom the prevailing suffrages have been
given, will ably and faithfully discharge the duties of his office.

Honored Fathers of the Council, Senate, and House of

Many of you have had repeated assurances of the
confidence of your fellow- citizens, who believe that you love your
country, and that you will labor to promote its prosperity.

They have a right to expect that you will aim in all your
acts and deliberations at the public welfare, and particularly that you will
exert the powers, with which you are constitutionally vested, to preserve the
union of the States, and to support the general government, which is
indispensable to our liberty and happiness. We are happy in the confidence that
these just and reasonable expectations of your constituents will not be

You have many motives to fidelity; but none that ought so
deeply to impress your minds as this, that you are accountable for all your
conduct to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who standeth in the
congregation of the mighty, and judgeth among the gods. Your public and private
conduct now will have an important influence on your future state. You will
consider therefore, that, though you are rulers over men, you are God√s
servants, and his approbation is of more importance than all other interests.

Though ye are all called gods on earth, ye shall die like

What painful demonstrations of this solemn truth have we
had in the past year! Alas! Washington, whom we loved, and delighted to honor,
is no more. The father of his country sleeps in dust. How long shall our tears
continue to flow at the recollection of his dear name! But it is for ourselves,
not for him we are to weep. Having finished the work, which has Master in
heaven had assigned him, he has been called from the field of his labors to
receive, as we trust, his reward, and to hear, “Well done, good and faithful
servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord.Ó

Though removed from our world, his virtues live in our
remembrance. And may the affection we had for him in his life, and the sorrow
we felt at his death, engage us to honor his memory by an imitation of his
pious and virtuous example! By this may he long continue to bless his country!

Imagine, honored fathers, that ye hear him, though dead,
yet speaking to you. And is not his language to this effect? “Remember that you
are not elevated to your present places for your personal emolument, but for
the good of your fellow mortals, whose happiness in life depends much on
your conduct.

“Rejoice in the honor conferred on you by your fellow- citizens, chiefly because you are thereby enabled to be more useful to
them during the short period of your continuance on earth. Bear in mind that
however eminent your talents and usefulness, or however great the affection of
your country may be, you must soon fall by the hand of death, and your
heads be laid low in the dust. Seek therefore the honor that cometh from God.
Let his fear rule in your hearts; embrace and obey the gospel of his Son,
fulfill the duties of your respective stations with fidelity, and then you will
be prepared to resign your earthly honors without regret, and enter into
possession of glory and immortality.Ó

Fellow- citizens of this assembly,

If, as has been said, the real freedom of a people
depends very much on their character and habits, every member of the community
by setting a good example may contribute to the preservation of our liberty and
happiness. Every man, who lives under the influence of Christian principles,
who leads a sober, righteous and godly life, is a benefactor to his country,
and he shall not lose his reward. When all terrestrial kingdoms and states
shall be dissolved, and the fashion of this world shall pass away, he shall be
glorious in the eyes of the Lord his God, and shall shine as the firmament, and
as a star forever and ever.




By | 2017-03-20T14:56:14+00:00 December 26th, 2016|Categories: Historical Sermons|0 Comments