Election Sermon,



the Day of the

Anniversary Election,


12, 1803.

Matthias Burnet, D.D.

of the First Church in Norwalk.

Psalm, xi. 3.

If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do?

This animated interrogatory
exhibits in strong and expressive language, the deplorable state of the good
man, when those only sure foundations of order, peace and security in
society, religion and government, are undermined and destroyed- For
though these are not expressly named, yet I think it evident from the context,
that they are the foundations referred to by the Psalmist, when he
represents the righteous as reduced to such a perplexed; and wretched condition
by their destruction. And indeed, what condition on earth can be imagined more
wretched than this? If those only sure foundations of order; peace and security
in society are destroyed, what can the righteous do? or where can they fly for
protection and comfort? The pillars on which their safety rested being taken
away, they are of all men the most miserable. Their conscience will not allow
them to resort to those measures, to which the wicked without scruple do, and
they are exposed to the persecution, the rapine and plunder of all who hate
their persons or covet their property, without hope of relief. If government is
destroyed, every human barrier to the corrupt lusts and passions of men is
broken down, and we have no security for any thing we possess. The hand of
every man will be against the hand of every man, and the stronger will oppress
the weak. This doctrine, I am sensible, is contrary to that of some minute
philosophers of the present day, who say, that man needs no external law
or government to regulate his conduct, but that reason which was given him for
his guide, united with opinion and sentiment, or the moral sense, as they call
it, is amply sufficient to render him a law to himself and to answer all the
purposes of society, without any written law or coercive power. But the
falsity of this assertion is demonstrated by the whole history of man, and the
great prevalence of vice, in every age and country, in opposition to reason,
sentiment and law. Corrupt as the world is, the general sentiment of mankind is
against vice and iniquity; the course of education in all schools and public
instructions is to discountenance it, and the express design of all law
and government is to restrain and repress it. Yet over all these barriers
how often do the corrupt lusts and passions of men break? How often are men
found hardy enough to commit crimes which their own conscience and the judgment
of all mankind condemn. They burst the law’s enclosure, rob the widow and
the orphan, and riot in the spoil of innocence. They perpetrate treason,
murder, and other atrocious deeds that strike the soul with horror but to name
them.- And if such enormities are often committed in opposition not only
to reason and the general sense of mankind, but to the restraints of law and
government, how much more frequent would they be, and to how much greater
height would they rise, if this fence was broken down, and this restraint taken
off? Would not the lawless passions of men rage without control, and spread
desolation far and wide? They surely would. On this account therefore, in order
to bridle the lusts, to curb the violence of men, and protect the person and
property of one man from the invasion of another, all nations have of
necessity, as well as of choice, submitted to some form of government, declared
and established by written laws or common consent, to be administered and
executed by the one, the few, or the many. A monarch, a body of nobles, or
representatives and magistrates chosen by the people, for the terror and
punishment of evil doers, and the encouragement and protection of them that do
well. This is, or should be, the end and design of all government; and to this
end when rightly framed and administered, it doth indeed greatly conduce.

But still excellent and beneficial
as this institution is, feeble in many instances would be the best form of
government, and ineffectual the most wise and salutary laws, and the greatest
fidelity in the execution of them, without a sense of religion and the
terrors of the world to come. The great and the mighty are often, so exalted by
their wealth and their power, as to be above the fear of the penalties of the
law, and the censures of men for the breach of them; and the poor sometimes,
view themselves as already sunk so low in the public estimation, that they have
little concern about sinking lower, and they are so wretched in their
circumstances that they cannot be reduced to much worse in this world, and are
therefore under little restraint from what men think of or can do to them, and
thus without fear or shame commit any crimes to which inclination or
opportunity prompts. But even where men dread the penalties of the law and the
censures of the public, there are ten thousand instances in which they may
elude them both. In which men of all ranks may commit a multitude of crimes,
under the covert of such darkness and concealment as no human eye can
penetrate, nor any finite arm lay hold on them.- If then there be no
sense of religion on the mind, nor any fear of God before their eyes, what will
restrain them from any deed however atrocious, to which profit or pleasure
tempts them? Will the man who disregards the authority of that Being who is
every where present, and to whose all piercing eye all things are open and
naked, regard the authority of one whom he may deceive every moment? Will the
man who has persuaded himself, if such a persuasion there can be, that there is
no God, or if there is, that this life is the whole of his existence and that
he shall never be called to an account in a future state, for any of his
conduct in this; will he abstain from any crime to which his inclination leads,
where concealment can shield him from the reproach, or power protect him
from the vengeance of the public? Under such circumstances will he hesitate to
defraud his neighbor, to betray or assassinate his friend, or fell his country,
if he can make a profitable or even a saving bargain to himself? He surely will
not. But honor, honesty, gratitude and friendship, will in this case be all
sacrificed at the shrine of interest, pleasure or ambition. In a word, banish a
sense of religion and the terrors of the world to come from society, and you at
once dissolve the sacred obligations of conscience and leave every man to
do that which is right in his own eyes; you let mankind 1oose like so many
beasts of prey, to roam at large, to deceive, destroy and devour all whom fraud
or force may put in their power. Whoever therefore regards his own interest or
that of the public, must be a friend to religion as the surest bond of
propriety in all private dealings, and as the best preservative of national
peace and welfare. If then religion and government are thus fundamental and
important, to the order, peace and security of society, it will be natural to
ask, how these foundations may be best laid and perpetuated? and to this
question I answer,

I. By a right and virtuous
education of the children and youth of the country. Train up a child in
the way in which he should go, was the advice and command of a great ruler and
very wise man; and the benefit of it he assures you will be, that when he
is old he will not depart from it, and it is an advice most worthy of
attention and regard as being founded in fact and experience. Tis education
forms the mind and directs the habits. Without education, and that knowledge
which is the effect of it, men are ever liable to be imposed upon and led
astray. Ignorant of the true nature of things they are degraded and depressed
by the grossest superstition, or blown up by the wildest enthusiasm. They
are duped and lead blindfold by every designing demagogue, or tamely crouch
down under every lordly despot: but when men are well educated and rightly
informed, they will shake off those fetters of the mind and affect the true
rights and dignities of man. Instructed in
the arts and sciences, in the laws and customs of nations, in their own rights
and those of others, they will be more likely to defend the one and to abstain
from infringing the other. Trained up in the knowledge and in the habit of
performing the duties they owe to God, their neighbor and themselves, they will
be less likely to depart from or break the order and peace of society by any
improper conduct. It is in this view that all civilized nations have considered
the education of children and youth as a matter of the greatest
importance. The ancient Greeks and Romans paid a very particular attention to
this subject. They early taught their children to fear the gods, to obey
their parents, teachers and rulers, and to love their country. They
instructed them in their rights, and inspired them with spirit and courage to
defend them. They brought them up in the habits of industry, temperance
and justice. They inured them to hardships by labor and exercises suited to
their age. They simulated them to virtuous and heroic deeds by motives of
glory and honor, and deterred them from vice and iniquity by disgrace and
punishment. Hence arose poets and orators, patriots and heroes, that have
eternized the names of these republics. And would arrive to like fame, and hand
down posterity unimpaired the happy constitution under which we live, and the
divine religion which we enjoy, with a reasonable hope that they will be
preserved in our land, it must be as one mean, by attending to the education of
the rising generation. The happiness or misery of a nation like ours must
greatly depend upon the knowledge or ignorance of the great body of the people.

2. In this view also, the public
worship of God, the assembling ourselves together for prayer, praise, and
religious instruction, on the Lord√s day, is a matter of the greatest moment.
This is the most excellent method, to communicate, spread and perpetuate the
knowledge of God and religion in the world, that ever hath been, or can be
devised. Indeed it is the only method that can maintain a public regard to
religion, which without it would be quickly lost and forgotten. Were the
preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and
the Lord√s supper generally neglected or discontinued, men would soon relapse
into the same darkness and idolatry which so universally prevailed before the
appearance of the great sun of righteousness, and as universally reigns now in
those parts of the earth where the gospel hath never come or been received. For
this reason Julian the apostate, when he attempted to overthrow and destruction
of the Christian religion, prohibited the public assembling of the Christians
for public worship and religious instruction, well knowing that if he could
succeed in this, he could the more effectually accomplish his design; and if
ever the Christian religion is extirpated, it must be by bringing its
institutions into disrepute, and causing them to be neglected. And therefore to
demolish these is the great aim of its enemies. But not only is public worship
or an attendance upon the institutions of religion, important, as it is
adapted to communicate, diffuse and perpetuate the knowledge of the doctrines
and principles of Christianity, but as it has a most happy tendency to give
them a deeper, and more lasting impression on the mind, to render men not only
wiser but better, to rectify the temper and regulate the conduct. The hearing
the virtues, of piety, justice, temperance, purity and charity or love from
Sabbath to Sabbath explained and inculcated, and the opposite vices of impiety,
injustice, intemperance, impurity, enmity, variance and contention,
stigmatized and condemned, and all enforced, with the solemn consideration
of a judgment to come, when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed, and
the deeds done in the body be rewarded or punished, according to their nature
and desert, has a natural tendency to lead to the practice of the former, and
to check and restrain from the commission of the latter. In this way the public
worship of God has a most salutary influence not only to promote the best
good of individuals, but the order, peace, and harmony of families, societies,
states and empires. To make good husbands and wives, good parents and children,
good masters and servants, good rulers and subjects- To make rulers rule
in the fear of God, and the ruled submit and pay all proper obedience, not only
for wrath, but for conscience sake. Yea the very meeting together of numbers in
one place, from Sabbath to Sabbath, as the children of one God and Father, to
offer up their prayers and praises to him the Father of mercies and the
fountain of all good, is adapted to conciliate their minds to each other, and
make them more loving and friendly than they otherwise would be. On the
contrary were the public institutions of religion generally neglected and
disused, gross ignorance in divine things, and great corruption in morals would
soon ensue. This I think may be fairly concluded from the difference there is,
between the knowledge and the morals of the mass of the people, in those places
in our land, where the institution of the Sabbath, and the preaching of
the gospel are regularly observed, and where they are not. In the latter the
people grow up in ignorance of these things, quite rude and uncivilized in
their manners. The Sabbath being considered as a day of rest, is spent in
idleness, drinking, gaming, and other vices which corrupt the mind, and
introduce penury and want, misery and wretchedness into the abodes of men. So
that as one strongly but truly expresses it, if our churches were generally
shut up and the public institutions of religion thrown aside, according to the
infidel√s wish, the civil magistrate, if he consulted the good of society,
would soon force them open in order to reclaim the criminals that would
otherwise be let loose upon the world.

3. Another thing, upon which the
welfare and stability of government much depends, is the choice of wise and
worth men, men of sound heads, honest hearts, and exemplary lives to fill the
legislative, judicial and executive departments of state. This in a
republican or free government is a matter of most serious concern, what are the
characteristics and qualifications of the persons you elect to office, and too
much attention cannot be paid to it, by all who wish well to their county;
because, if the men who, are raised by the people to legislate, judge of, or
execute the laws for them, are weak and ignorant, the laws they frame must partake
of the same qualities; or if they be corrupt in their principles, and dissolute
and immoral in their lives, they will have a motive in their own breast and
conduct to be remiss in the execution of the laws, however wise and good they
maybe. Yea they become themselves examples and encouragers of vice to others,
and thus contribute to weaken and destroy the very government they are sworn to
maintain. On which account, the ancient Greeks in the time of the greatest
purity and perfection of their government, would admit no person to office
among them who lived a dissolute and immoral life, judging him unworthy of
public trust who could not, or would not govern himself by the rules of
prudence, sobriety and justice. And upon the same principle no doubt it was
that Jethro the father in law of Moses, gave that excellent advice to him, with
respect to the qualifications of the judges he should choose to assist him in
the government of the people Israel.

That they should be able men, such
as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness. That is, as the words plainly
import, that they should be men of good natural understanding and competent
acquired knowledge. Men acting under the belief and awe of God as their
inspector and judge, to whom they consider themselves accountable for their
conduct and whom they fear to offend. Men truly honest and upright in their
principles and views, not actuated and governed by he sordid motives of self
interest and aggrandizement in their desire and execution of office, but by a sincere
regard to the public good. And sure better advice than this, could not be given,
nor more important qualifications directed to in the choice of rulers. Yet I am
well aware that one of these qualifications, viz. the fear of God, is by
numbers, thought to be of very little consequence, and some there are, who even
deride the very idea of paying any attention to it all, declaring our dearest
interests to be as safe in the hands even of an atheist, as any other man. But
with that great patriot and statesman the late governor Livingston of New
Jersey, I must yet think that this is a qualification of very great importance
in a ruler. And that the father in law of Moses gave him very good advice,
when he directed him to pay particular attention to it in those whom he
should appoint to be judges and rulers over the people Israel. For if God be such a being, as both
reason and revelation declare him to be, an omniscient, holy, just and all- powerful being, whose eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and
the good, to punish the one and reward the other according to their character
and deeds, then certainly, the fear and awe of him must operate as the greatest
restraint from that which is evil, and the most powerful incentive to that
which is good, and he who is truly actuated by this principle, will never give
his voice or influence to pervert justice or support iniquity. But the man who
does not believe in the being and providence of God, or is not actuated by the
fear and awe of him, has in many cases no bond or restraint upon his conduct,
and therefore is not fit to be trusted with a nation√s weal, which he will not
scruple, whenever he can with impunity, to sacrifice to his lust or ambition.

4. Another thing highly worthy the
attention of all who wish to promote the order, peace and stability of
government is, that as much as in them lies, they cherish and cultivate a
spirit of unity and concord, and avoid and discourage that unreasonable
jealousy, and party zeal, which throws the members of the State, into different
factions, pursuing different interests of their own, and often both of them
very different from that of the public. So much political jealousy as leads men
to watch over their rights and liberties with care, that they be not infringed,
is proper and laudable, yea, is an indispensable duty: But when men enlist
themselves in parties and range themselves under particular leaders, they
too often lose sight of the public good and yield themselves up implicitly to
their directions, whom like a band of dragoons they follow wherever they lead.
They consider not the truth, the reasonableness, or the justice of the cause,
but what will promote the views and interests of the party to which they
attach themselves. This casts a mist before their eyes and sanctifies every
mean, however base and iniquitous, that will contribute to the particular
designs of the party. Hence slander, misrepresentation, the grossest falsehoods
and even violence when the end cannot be obtained without it, are the common
resort of men actuated by this spirit. When it rises to any considerable
height, it engenders the most virulent factions and deadly animosities in neighborhoods,
societies and states, which are often perpetuated from generation to
generation and sometimes work the overthrow and ruin of the community or state
where they prevail. It was this spirit of party, which hastened the downfall of
ancient Rome, once the wonder and mistress of the world. The powerful parties
of Caesar and Pompey kept the state a long time in convulsions, till the
victory of Caesar over Pompey gave it a master, and instead of a government
managed by freemen, subjected the property, the liberty, and lives of the
citizens of Rome, to the will of a tyrant. And Josephus, the Jewish historian,
informs us, that to the party factions and intestine divisions that rent and
convulsed the Jews among themselves, their destruction as more owing, than to
the conquering arms of the Romans. This same spirit also contributed to reduce
Holland and Switzerland to their present degraded and humiliating condition, to
have their rulers, government and laws dictated and controlled by a foreign
power. Should not then the fate of these and other nations famed in story, be a
solemn memento and warning to the people of this land, to check and cast out
that demon of party, which hath risen among us, engendering enmity, strife
and contention, and inciting to the vilest slander, misrepresentation and
falsehood, that alas! men of different parties in the violence of their zeal,
can scarce think or say a good thing of each other; and of consequence, while
this disposition reigns, will never unite in measures for the public
good, but even against the plainest dictates of reason and common sense will
forever use all their efforts to perplex and counteract each other.

5. Once more, permit me to
observe, that in order to the stability of a free government it is necessary
that the great body of the people be, and continue virtuous, sober, industrious
and lovers of order. So long as this is the case, there will be little to be
feared. All things will go well. Liberty, peace and prosperity, will dwell with
such a people, at least there will be nothing among themselves, to interrupt or
banish these blessed inhabitants from their residence with them. But whenever
there shall be a general corruption among the great body of the people, when
pride, selfishness and ambition, or an insatiable thirst for power, shall
pervade and actuate the higher orders; when vice, licentiousness and opposition
to all just rule and restraint shall characterize the lower ranks of men;
when rulers govern and people obey, when ministers counsel and soldiers fight,
when judges preside over the laws and jurors bear testimony, not from any
regard to the principles of conscience, the fear of the Lord or the public
good, but their own private interests and aggrandizement, then it is easy to
see, that a government thus administered is without any solid support within or
without, and thus distempered in all its members, it must gradually decline and
waste away, or fall a prey to the first acute disorder that attacks it. This
the Roman historians inform us, was the fatal progress of corruption and vice
in that famed republic and once free state of ancient Rome. While a patriot
ardor glowed in the breasts of her senators, judges and generals, while
temperance, frugality and industry, submission to order and just government, patience
and resolution, to do and to suffer all things for the security, reputation,
liberty and glory of their country characterized her citizens, peace and
prosperity reigned at home, fame, conquest and empire crowned their arms
abroad; but when a selfish ambition took place of love of their country;
and zeal for the public was extinguished by party rage, when the riches of
the east and the spoils of conquered provinces, had introduced indolence,
sloth, luxury and avarice, and all the arts and follies of a corrupted
state, and above all, when the principles of Epicurus had banished
religion, the only effectual restraint upon human conduct, from the state, and
left every man to do what was right in his own eyes, then as a nervous writer
very justly describes her fate, like the Israelites of old, when they had
renounced the government of their God and the protection of his providence,
they were given up to ruin. Unnerved and inseminated by luxury and excess, they
were exposed to insults from abroad, and to intestine broils and civil wars at
home. A
succession of tyrants, monsters of impiety, debauchery and cruelty, was
permitted to lash the Romans into virtue, or correct and punish their vices,
under whom the state languished, rather than lived under a complication of
disorders, till Rome, imperial, immortal, eternal Rome, the mistress of the world,
the strong and spreading oak, that covered all the beasts of the earth, having
filled her measure of wickedness and accomplished her fate, the fate of
nations, expires, or rather dwindles away, a poor and shriveled plant, deprived
of its native virtue and the benign influences of heaven, and is scattered, the
sport of winds, into the common mass of universal matter. An awful monument and
solemn warning to the world, that while righteousness exalteth a nation, vice
is the reproach and ruin of a people.-

And now to bring this already long
discourse to a close, what are the lessons which it inculcates and the
improvement which is proper to be made of it, by this numerous and august
assembly? To your Excellency the Governor- to your Honor the Lieutenant
Governor, and to you Gentlemen the Legislators and Representatives of this
State, doth it not strongly suggest, the high importance of giving all possible
encouragement and support to the means of education, common schools and public
seminaries, those fountains of useful knowledge to our youth, whence streams
may continually flow to water and refresh our land, or to vary the figure,
whence our children and youth may be trained up to usefulness and honor, and be
as pillars in church and state? Again, do not the above considerations, also
strongly declare the propriety and importance of giving countenance and support
to the public worship of God, and its necessary institutions. I know it is the
opinion of some, and it is to be feared, that with the fool, who hath said in
his heart, there is no God, it is the wish of more, that government should
take no notice, nor by any laws enacted for that purpose, give any
countenance or support to religion, but leave God and religion, entirely
unnoticed, as much as if there was no such being or thing in existence. For a
nation or government of atheists, if such a government ever did or can exist, I
acknowledge such a conduct would be proper and in character; but for a
nation of theists, and especially of Christian theists, who profess to believe
in the being of a God, and that the worship of him is
a duty, and of public and general utility to a people, I say for such a nation
or government to be silent on this head, would certainly be very improper, if
not an impious and unpardonable neglect; for if there be a God, if the
public worship of him be a duty and of great use to the virtue and morals of
men, to check, restrain and repress, the overflowings of ungodliness, to engage
men to live in peace and love with each other, to submit to order and good
government, and above all to dispose and prepare them for a future and more
happy state of existence, then certainly it must be a matter highly worthy the
attention of every government to give countenance and support to the
institutions of religion- nor can magistrates and rulers, according
to scripture prophecy, be nursing fathers to the church, if they do not.

Far be it from me to wish to see,
and God forbid we ever should see, any government in this country, enacting
laws to dictate what articles of faith men shall believe, what mode of worship
they shall adopt, or to raise and establish one mode of worship or denomination
of Christians above or in preference to another. No, let the human mind be left
perfectly free, in all these particulars, to chose and adopt, such modes as it
pleases, and let all denominations have equal countenance and support of
government; and while ye venerable fathers of your country, to whose care we
commit our most valuable rights, civil and religious, while ye thus support the
external institutions of religion, by wise and liberal laws and provisions,
framed for that purpose, and thus become nursing, protecting fathers to the
church, may we not rationally conclude, that while agreeable to the
command of Moses to the tribes of Zebulon and Isachar, ye call the people to
the mountain, the temple or house of God, there to offer the sacrifices of
righteousness; you will sanction and give force to your laws, by your own
example going before and leading them thither, and in all things being patterns
to them, in piety, virtue and every good work. Thus will you most effe4ftually
give energy to your laws, and order, peace and permanency to government.

To you, my Reverend Fathers and Brethren
in the gospel ministry, this discourse may with peculiar propriety be
It is your appropriate and honorable work to dissipate the clouds of ignorance
and error, to enlighten and irradiate the human mind with knowledge, and by
every mean to strive to make men wiser and better, to inculcate upon them principles
of love and peace, with each other, of order and subjection to government,
human and divine, and by instruction and example to lead their views to a
future and better world. Let this then be the grand object of our aim. Being by our station and office appointed and
designed to reflect the rays of light from the great sun of righteousness, let
our light so shine before men, that they seeing the light of our good works,
may be led to glorify our Father, the Father of lights, who is in heaven.
Considering ourselves as a city set on a hill that can not be hid, that
all our actions and conduct is observed and critically scanned, and by many
with the worst intent, that they may gain an advantage against us, and through
our sides, wound and destroy the cause of our blessed Redeemer, let us
agreeable to the command and direction of our Lord and his apostles, be wise as
serpents and harmless as doves. Let us walk circumspectly, with prudence,
honesty and uprightness, in all our intercourse with the world, being examples
to the flock and to the world, in faith, in purity, in word, in doctrine and every
good work. Thus let us put to silence and shame, the slanders and revilings of
libertine and ungodly men, who are ever ready, and often do say all manner of
evil of us. But let us
not be dismayed or disheartened, by their revilings, to give up the truth or
desert the cause of our divine Master; but let us contend earnestly for the
faith once delivered to the saints, when opposed, not with the virulence of
bigots but with meekness, candor, and sound speech, that cannot be gainsayed.
Let us go on, in the noble and pleasing work of diffusing knowledge, human and
divine, of inculcating upon men the principles of virtue, peace and order, of
training them up for, and leading them to heaven and happiness above.

And ye fathers and mothers in this
our American Israel, will you not unite your efforts with ours in this
benevolent work? Much depends upon you in training up the rising generation to
be worthy and useful members of society here, or suitable inhabitants of a
better world hereafter; and especially upon you, ye venerable and
respected matrons, who have the care of the tenderest years of your children,
to sow the seeds of virtue, which are afterwards to be matured by the fostering
hand of the father. The impressions first made are often most lasting, and
numbers of great and good men have declared themselves more indebted to the
tender and pious instructions of their mothers in childhood, that they were
kept from vice, and became virtuous members of society, than all after means.
Very honorable is the mention which St. Paul makes of the mother and grand
mother of Timothy, and which St. Austin makes of his mother Monica in this
view, that the religious instructions which she gave him when a child made such
impressions on his mind as were never obliterated, but remained with him
through the dangerous season of youth, and by the blessing of God, preserved
him from many a vice and folly.

Early then ye parents begin this
benevolent, this pleasing work of seasoning the minds of your children with
sentiments of virtue; teach them their duty to God and man- acquaint
them with their rights, as men and citizens; inspire them with a love of their
country, and a zeal to promote and defend its interests; educate them in the
habits of industry, temperance, frugality, peaceableness, order and subjection
to government- instruct them in the nature of the worship of God, and
lead them to the performance of it, in your families and in the church; bring
these lambs of the flock and present them before your heavenly Father, the
great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, for his blessing; and thus habituate them
to, and prepare them for the sublime employments of his holy temple above. And
ye blooming youth of both sexes, who are rising to succeed your parents, in
whose hands the country and church will soon be deposited, will ye not listen
to the counsels, and follow the example of your pious and revered parents,
ministers and friends. With pleasing hope we anticipate the day when you shall
come forward an ornament and blessing to your country, to direct her counsels,
and defend her rights, or polish the manners and sooth the manners
of her sons. That this may be the case, furnish your minds while young with
useful knowledge, search for it as for hid treasure, qualify yourselves to act
your part with ability on the great theatre of life, to serve your country and
your God, whether in a humbler or higher department of the various stations,
posts and offices to which you may be destined and called. Cease from the- instructions of them who would cause you to err from the word of
knowledge. Guard against the poisonous- the wide spreading and soul
destroying principles of infidelity and libertinism- listen not to
the siren song of pleasure, nor to the seductions of evil company, whose evil
communications corrupt good manners. Be companions of the wise and the good,
the friends of order, religion and virtue, by whom your minds may be informed,
and your morals refined. Above all things let me enjoin it upon you, to
remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come on
in which ye shall say, ye have no pleasure. Impress your minds with the solemn
awe of the dread majesty of heaven and earth, and this will preserve you from
many a sin, and from many a bitter pang. Seek that wisdom which is from above,
and it will regulate all your steps; prescribe the proper rule of your conduct,
and show you what is due from you to yourselves, your neighbor, and your God.

Finally, ye Freemen, all of every
class whose high prerogative it is, to raise up, or pull down, to invest with
office and authority, or to withhold them, and in whose power it is to save or
destroy your country, consider well the important trust and distinguishing
privileges which God and nature have put into your hands. To God and posterity
you are accountable for them. See
that you preserve them inviolate and transmit them to posterity unimpaired. Let
not your children have reason to curse you for giving up those rights, and
prostrating those institutions which our fathers delivered to you as a sacred
palladium, and which by the blessing of God have been peculiarly beneficial to
the order, peace and prosperity of this State, amid all the vicissitudes and
convulsions of other states and kingdoms round. And that this happy state of
things may continue, look well to the characters and qualifications of those
you elect and raise to office and places of trust. In this momentous concern,
let the wise counsel of Jethro, tho√ a priest, be your guide. Choose ye out
from among you able men, such as fear God, men of truth and hating covetousness
and set them to rule over you. Think not that your interests will be safe in
the hands of the weak and ignorant or faithfully managed by the impious, the
dissolute and the immoral. Think not that men who acknowledge not the providence
of God nor regard his laws, will be uncorrupt in office, firm in defense of the
righteous cause against the oppressor, or resolutely oppose the torrent of
iniquity. Their own emolument, ease or pleasure, will at any time induce them
to connive at injustice and iniquity, or join with the oppressor. Watch over
your liberties and privileges civil and religious with a careful eye. In
defense of these be zealous, resolute and intrepid. They demand it of you and
are worthy of it, even tho√ your lives were to be sacrificed. But indulge not
an unreasonable jealousy, nor a captious spirit of caviling with, or
faulting the conduct of those you entrust with power- nor a fondness for
perpetual and unnecessary change of men or measures. Remember it is always
safer and better for a people, to commit their interests to the care of those
whose ability, fidelity and patriotism they have tried and found equal to their
trust, than to those whom they have not, even though they may be supposed to be
perfectly equal in all these particulars.

Banish party factions from among
you- let the general good take place of contracted selfishness, and the
public welfare triumph over private animosity. Discountenance vice, and be
patterns and promoters of virtue and good morals as the only security for the
support and prosperity of a republican government.

Revere, imbibe and practice that holy heaven- born religion, which is first pure, then peaceable gentle, easy to
be entreated, and full of good fruits, without partiality and without
hypocrisy. In a word, let the love of God, your country, and mankind rule
your hearts and actuate your conduct; and let this be manifested by that which
is the only true proof of it- obedience to his laws, a patriot soul and
a public spirit.-

Then may you hope that order,
peace and harmony- honor and prosperity will dwell with us, and God
himself be our shield and defense-