The following sermon was preached by Samuel Williams at the ordination of John Prince. This sermon uses Luke 2:14 for a basis.
The Influence of Christianity on Civil Society,
Represented In A
Delivered November 10, 1779,
Of The Reverend
Mr. JOHN PRINCE,
To the Pastoral Care of the First Church in
S A L E M
SAMUEL WILLIAMS, A. M.
Pastor of the First Church in Bradford.
LUKE II. 14.
GLORY to GOD in the highest, and on earth peace, good will
Most of those great events that have nearly concerned the interests of mankind have been ushered into the world in such a manner, as made manifest the interposition of divine providence. This was the case with regard to the appearance of our Redeemer. On the earth everything was prepared for this great event. War had ceased, and universal peace took place among the nations of the earth. The age was distinguished by wisdom, science, and literary pursuits. The Roman empire was in its full glory: And the minds of men throughout the East Were in expectation of some better instruction than they had ever had in religious matters. In such an age, and when the affairs and minds of men were in such a state, the Son of God appeared.
And so great were the blessings he came to impart to men, that the blessed inhabitants of the heavenly world were themselves moved with joy on the great occasion. “There were in the same country,” saith the sacred historian, “shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.” 1
Such was the manner in which Christianity was introduced into the world. And the design of it was worthy its heavenly original. Its aim is not only to make men blessed and happy in the world which is to come, but to promote their purity and felicity in that which now is. This is what the text holds out to our view. Nor can there be a more just or comprehensive account of the nature, de4sign and tendency of our holy religion than this, It is adapted and designed to bring glory to God in the heavens, and to advance the interests of peace and happiness among men while they continue on the earth.
In this view, I shall consider the words. And at a time when the minds of men are deeply engaged in attending to that wonderful preparation of circumstances, and singular combination of causes, by which the Ruler of the world is raising up a mighty and extensive Empire in this land; it may be a useful subject to remind men of the advantages they may derive from Religion, and what a happy tendency Christianity has to promote the interests of civil society.
1. In the first place, The religion of Jesus Christ is well adapted to promote peace on earth and happiness to men, by its influence on the Minds and Manners of Men. All the blessings of which mankind are capable in their present and in their future state of existence, are very nearly connected with their governing tempers, habits, and manners. Pardon of sin, acceptance with their Maker now, justification at the last day, and an immortal state of life and glory, do all suppose a holy character in those who are made partakers of these blessings. And of all blessings the greatest and most important, is to be interested in the favour of God unto eternal life. If God be for us, who can be against us? And if he shall condemn, who is he that can justify? There is no superior tribunal to reverse his decrees: No higher power to alter his purpose: And no good thing can be wanting to those whom the Almighty shall delight to bless.
The same temper and conduct that qualifies men for these spiritual and future blessings, is that which alone can make them capable of a proper enjoyment and improvement of those which are of a civil and temporal nature. Established habits of vice, in their consequences and operations, will always render men incapable of freedom, government, and a proper regard to the public good. No virtuous attempts, no public measures, no useful institutions will succeed when the minds, habits, and morals of a people are become generally vicious and corrupt. The foundation therefore for all the blessings of religion, and for all the blessings of society must be laid in the dispositions, habits, and morals of men. And of consequence it must be one great and primary end of religion to form the hearts and lives of men to virtue; to root out the habits and practice of vice; and to introduce right tempers, views and pursuits: that is, to establish and keep up a permanent dominion over the minds and conduct of men. The Law-givers of all ages and countries have been fully sensible of this: And while they have tried the power of education, and the strength of laws, they have never failed to call in the aid of Religion; well knowing they could manage to advantage all the affairs of Society, if they could but give a right direction to the minds, the views, and the pursuits of mankind.
And here the religion of Jesus Christ will be found to be well adapted to do the most essential service to Civil Society. Its doctrines are a complete system of moral truth, teaching us all that is necessary to be known of our Maker and of ourselves. Its precepts are a pure system of morals, holding out our duty, and directing us how to conduct in all cases. It gives us the best helps and assistances that human nature has ever had. It holds out those prospects and promises to form us to virtue, of which mankind had no certainty before. And the threatenings to deter men from vice are taken from the most powerful of all considerations, those of eternal and never ending existence. “It gives to virtue its sweetest hopes, to impenitent vice its greatest fears, and to true penitence its best consolations.” 2 And what more can religion do to influence the minds and the conduct of men? Or which among all the religions that have ever been believed, is so well adapted to this end? Thus in respect to that which is the foundation of all present and of all future blessings, influencing the hearts and lives of men, Christianity is adapted to promote peace on earth, good will and happiness to men.
2. Another important blessing in respect to which the religion of Jesus is adapted to bring peace and happiness to men while they are on the earth, is, by its tendency and influence to promote their Freedom. While mankind have been looking for another and for a better state of existence, they have been anxious to enjoy the blessings their Creator designed for them in the present state: To have their rights, properties, possessions, and lives, in freedom; and to be secured from injustice, violence, and oppression. This has every where been found to be the genuine desire of Nature, and what all her children have been thirsting for. And it is a desire every way rational, and just; and one that is planted deep in the human mind by our great Creator. But although the sovereign Ruler of the world meant the heavenly gift for all his children, there have been but few ages and nations but what have sooner or later been deprived of this invaluable blessing. The evils and miseries that have succeeded the loss of it, in many places have been without number and without end. They that would have a particular account of them, must read the histories of mankind; and they will find that the relations of despotism, oppression, persecution, violence, and cruelty make much the largest part. Every consideration therefore of prudence, interest, and safety, require that a people who are growing up to a great and mighty empire, guard as much as possible against the most dreadful of all temporal calamities, the loss of their Freedom.
And this depends not a little on the nature and tendency of their religion. By introducing a religion which claimed a divine right to make its way by the sword, and to cut off all its opposers; and whose main aim was to establish the doctrine of unavoidable necessity and fate, Mahomet took a very sure step to establish the despotism that has ever since prevailed in his empire. In all those countries in which the dreadful tribunal of the inquisition has been established, and the clergy armed with a power of delivering over to the flames all they shall declare to be heretics, religion has served to destroy every idea of liberty in the minds of men. In all those formidable attacks that have been made on the liberties of England, it has been the constant practice of the court to engage the clergy to preach the doctrines of passive obedience and non-resistance, that the religion of the state might serve to enslave the nation. And wheresoever religion teaches abject submission to the vices of rulers, or serves to oppress and impoverish the people, or puts into the hands of the church the power of life and death, it will prove greatly unfriendly to the liberties of mankind. A religion that teaches the unlawfulness of self-defence, that fills the minds of men with superstitious fears and terrors, or that diverts them from truth and morals, to the useless severities of corporal sufferings, will naturally tend to sink the minds of men into the lowest submission and abasement; and to destroy that activity, spirit, courage, firmness, and magnanimity which lead a people to empire and to liberty.
God be thanked there is nothing of this nature in the religion of Jesus. With a spirit and tendency altogether the reverse, it recommends freedom of thought and enquiry, in every thing that concerns mankind. It teaches men to pursue their interest. It directs them to attend to the things that make for their happiness in every state of their existence. It requires them to oppose every thing that would bring them into bondage. And above all it inspires them with that grandeur and elevation of mind, that sublimity of sentiment, that conscious dignity of human nature, and that unconquerable regard to human happiness, which will ever be pushing them forward to the attainment and security of that liberty with which God has made them free. Thus in conformity to the doctrine of our Lord and his apostles, when men “know the truth, the truth will make them free.” John. 8:32. And “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Cor. 3:17. For it is the nature, genius, and tendency of his religion to produce and preserve it. Again,
3. The religion of Jesus Christ is adapted to promote peace on earth, good will and happiness to men, by its salutary influence on their Government. We know of no way in which the rights, properties, liberties and lives of men can be secured from violence and oppression, but by establishing some form of civil government among themselves. And wheresoever a community have established among themselves the dominion of equal laws, made by common consent, as the basis of their government, they have taken the surest step that human wisdom has yet discovered to secure to themselves the blessings of society. Such a government does not tend to infringe the liberties of mankind, but to preserve them: It does not take away any of the rights of human nature, but protects and confirms hem. “It does not even create any new subordinations of particular men to one another, but only gives security in those several stations, whether of authority and pre-eminence, or of subordination and dependence, which nature has established, and which must have arisen among mankind whether civil government had been instituted or not. The superiorities and distinctions arising from the relation of parents to their children; from the differences in the personal qualities and abilities of men; and from servitudes founded on voluntary compacts, must have existed in a state of nature, and would now take place were all men so virtuous as to leave no occasion for civil government.” 3 A government which is thus consistent with the natural equality of men, and which gives full scope for the exertion of all the rational powers, activity, and vigour of mankind, while it protects them at the same time from violence and injustice, is to be esteemed one of the greatest temporal blessings we are capable of receiving.
A rising empire cannot be too careful to obtain to invaluable a blessing, and to have it carefully preserved. And here a free state may derive much assistance from the religion of Jesus Christ. The mildness of its genius and precepts, is incompatible with despotic power, and lawless violence. The purity of its nature, institutions, and laws, is inconsistent with anarchy, confusion, and disorder. It gives to rulers such representations of their character and duty, and such rules of conduct, as apply with singular propriety to the important office that man bears in society, who is appointed to be a minister of God to us for good; who beareth not the sword in vain; who is an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil; a terror not to good works but to the evil. Rom. 13: 3, 4, 5. It directs and requires the people to be subject (not indeed to lawless violence) but to all lawful authority not only for wrath, but for conscience sake; to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake; I Pet. 2:13. and to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, as well as unto God the things that are God’s. Matt. 22:21. And it gives to all, the most solemn and awful threatenings against that impiety which undermines the main pillars of society; against vice which more openly attacks it; and the spirit of contention, party and faction, which tends with still greater force to pull down the whole fabric. “How admirable the religion, which, while it seems only to have in view the felicity of the other life, constitutes the happiness of this.” 4 A free and equal government cannot have any support on which it may with more certainty rely, than what it will find in the genius, spirit, doctrines, and laws, of so pure, mile, and benevolent a religion. To this we may add,
4. The religion of Jesus Christ is also adapted to promote peace on earth, good will and happiness to men, by its happy tendency to promote everything that tends to the growth, progress, and improvement of civil Society. Such is the imperfection of human knowledge, and the mutable state of all human affairs, that it becomes us to speak with great modesty and caution as to the events of futurity. And yet if we may be allowed to reason from the preparations and tendencies of nature and providence, from the great principles of God’s moral government, or the operation and influence of natural causes, we cannot but conclude that an empire like that established among us, founded in freedom and virtue, must, in the progressive improvements of human affairs, exceed anything that has ever yet taken place among mankind. 5
It would tend much to promote this if more of the spirit of Christianity should be introduced into the nature of civil Policy than has ever yet been done. Integrity, equity and good faith, are allowed by all to be of the greatest necessity and utility in the concerns of individuals. It is a reproach to mankind that what is universally allowed to be so necessary in private life, should have been so little practiced in the administration of public affairs. There is no room to doubt but hat religion would essentially benefit civil society in this respect. An empire that shall firmly adopt and steadily adhere to the great principles of equity, righteousness, and public faith, will derive innumerable advantages from their public faith and virtue; which the deceitfulness of unrighteousness, with whatever subtlety it may be managed, will never secure.
And blessed will be that country that shall teach the nations of the earth to make more use of the religion of Jesus in the Wars that may yet take place. This dreadful evil is too often carried on with the most tragical scenes of undistinguished plunder, destruction and carnage. It is to be hoped the time will come when the religion of Jesus will introduce a greater regard to humanity: When it will teach monarchs to reverence the laws of nature and nations; and make the soldier feel a horror at the shedding of innocent blood. 6
Happy for men instead of being designed to destroy men’s lives, the religion of our Lord is adapted to enlarge their Numbers, and to promote their Increase. There have been times and places, in which the religion of a country has served to destroy its inhabitants. This is the case where persons fit for all the duties of life are encouraged to separate themselves from society, and to shut themselves up in the dust and silence of a cloister: And in the highest degree where celibacy, persecution, human sacrifices, and the more infernal butcheries of the inquisition have been enjoined. Institutions so unfriendly to the increase of mankind are as contrary to the nature of true religion, as they are to the good of society.—With a spirit and tendency entirely different, the religion of Christ aims to enlarge society by the most natural and virtuous union. It teaches families the most sober sense of virtue and duty. It requires diligence, industry, and honesty, in all the concerns of life. It makes the marriage union honorable in all. It requires its ministers and professors to be useful members of the state. It grants liberty of conscience, and requires brotherly love of all. A people possessed of all the advantages that arise from freedom, situation, climate, and soil, will find such a religion favorable to the most rapid increase.
The same benign tendency will be found in Christianity if we look forward to Improvements in social happiness. There are many things which conduce to the good of society, which we have reason to think may be carried to a much greater perfection than they have ever yet been. The full force of education has never yet been tried; and we have reason to believe that great improvements may be made in the means and methods of it. Observation, industry, and genius, may greatly enlarge the boundaries of science; and give to men much more extensive views in every branch of knowledge. All those various arts by which business is transacted, and nations lead to greatness, may be carried to a degree of perfection of which we have no conception at present. And what new remedies may be found against those evils which the vices of men are constantly producing; or whether, time, discipline, and experience, may not suggest some further methods to produce greater equality, friendship, virtue and happiness among men, is more than we can say.
But of this we are certain—Our blessed religion is every way calculated to assist the human mind in such enquiries. The freedom it gives to thought and enquiry, the blessings it promises to those who do good to mankind, and above all the amiable example of its divine Author who went about doing good, suggest the strongest motives to encourage and to provoke one another to such good works.
Thus in every view in which the interests of society are considered, it will be found that the religion we profess, the religion of Jesus Christ is adapted in all its parts to promote the good of the State: Or in the language of the text, The nature, genius, design, and spirit of it, is to do honor to God in the highest; and to promote peace on earth, and good will to men.
As a natural remark upon what has been said we may infer, That it is the indispensable duty of Society to encourage and promote religion. That the religion of the Gospel is founded in Truth, may be fairly inferred from its Utility. In all the sciences with which we are acquainted, whatever is true in practice, whatever succeeds in repeated experiments, we conclude is true in theory. The same methods of reasoning may be applied to moral subjects. And it is the conclusion of reason that that religion which is calculated to do the greatest good, has most of the spirit of truth, and is the most acceptable to God. 7 — And hence it is plainly our duty to take every lawful and prudent method in our power to promote the religion of God our Saviour. Youth should be trained up to reverence and regard the religion of their country. Seminaries of learning should explain and teach the great principles and doctrines of Nature and Grace. The ministers of religion should “preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Col. 1:28. The Christian magistrate should encourage this religion by his example, and protect the ministers and professors of it by law.
It has been made a question whether the civil magistrate, as such, ever ought to concern himself in matters of religion. So far as religion is a private thing, it ought to be viewed as a personal transaction between God and a devout soul. And in this respect society can have nothing to do with it. Of this nature is the right and exercise of private judgment and free enquiry, articles of faith, sentiments about discipline, ceremonies, forms, modes, and all matters that belong to the jurisdiction of conscience. Such things are and will be personal concerns: And the civil magistrate is not appointed or qualified, to judge or to act in them, for anybody but himself.—But religion is also a public concern. And so far as it is of a public nature, the State never was or can be without it; and therefore must unavoidably be concerned in it. A reverence to the Deity, public worship, and morality, are necessary to the existence and preservation of civil government. And hence an order of men will exist in every state, as public teachers of the people, and ministers of religion; whose conduct will greatly affect society: And the lowest light in which government can ever consider them is that of Custodes Morum, keepers of the morals of the people. And as to the support, restraint, or regulation that shall be necessary on their account, government must in all cases do what the public good requires. — I am sensible an endless scene of controversy may be raised about these matters by men whose business it is to defend their own interest and party. But in all such debates the only question that concerns the public, is What is right and best for society? And this ought always be determined, not by the narrow views, private interests, and intolerant spirit of religious parties, but by the general nature of Religion and Society.
The subject we have been considering may also serve to point out the wisdom and goodness of god in appointing the ministry of the gospel. That glorious Being who make known the most excellent religion, has also made provision that men may enjoy the blessings of it from one generation to another. With this view our Lord appointed pastors and teachers in his church to explain his religion, and to persuade men to embrace it. And no institution could be more necessary or beneficial to the interests of mankind. We cannot conceive how a church or a religion can exist without it. The body of mankind will always be in such a state, as to need constant instruction and persuasion in the things of religion. And nothing can be better suited to promote the interests of truth and virtue, than to have men trained up and devoted to their service. Men of serious minds and good abilities may be of great advantage to their brethren this way.
We rejoice My Brother, that you are found willing to devote yourself to this sacred office. A more useful one you could not have chosen. God grant it may be a happy one to you, and to your people. — Was there nothing more in the religion you are to teach than that it was designed to produce the greatest happiness among men on the earth, in this view it would be worthy of all acceptation. But you are sensible it has a greater and nobler object in view than this. The happiness, the blessedness it means to establish is a blessedness that will be imperfect and perpetual. Man is made for Immortality: His existence will reach out to futurity: It will take in, it will comprehend everlasting ages. And we are informed by unerring wisdom and truth, that our future state of existence will be happy or wretched according to our characters here. So that the great end and design of the religion of Jesus, is the greatest possible good an immortal creature is capable of receiving; —Perfect blessedness in that world and state where all will be eternal. And of this religion you are now to be a minister.
We doubt not, Sir, but that you find in your own heart such a regard to the religion of your Lord as that you can devote yourself to his service with great sincerity. But no good man will rest in any present attainments. The more you attain of the spirit of Christianity, the more you experience of the power of divine truth on your own heart, the more you resemble your great Lord and Master, the more pleasant you ministry will be to yourself, and the more profitable to your people.
You will be particularly careful that the doctrines you preach be the true doctrines of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not mean to dictate to you on this point. I could easily give you an account of my own sentiments; and tell you what I believe to be the most important doctrines of the Gospel. But I never wish to see you pay an undue regard to the opinions of men. It has always been my advice that you should examine with caution indeed and with modesty, but with the greatest freedom in all religious matters. The cause of truth can never suffer by the most free enquiry. Let it therefore be your daily and your serious employment to study the holy Scriptures: And the doctrines which you there find, let these be the doctrines which you preach to others.
The success of your ministry, under God, will very much depend upon your conduct if you go before your people as an example to the believer in all the graces and duties of Christianity, the serious and sensible cannot but esteem you a good minister of Jesus Christ. But the want of seriousness, prudence, and steadiness, argues such a defect of judgment or lightness of character as nothing can excuse. Above all things be faithful to your God, to yourself, and to this people, that you may both save yourself and them that hear thee.
You must expect to meet with many difficulties and trials. Everything great and excellent will be attended with opposition. But you have many things to encourage and animate you. Your Lord has promised that he will be with you. And you are to labor in the best of all causes, that of truth and virtue. An ardor to promote this, distinguished those wise and great men in the heathen world, whose names have been handed down to us, attended with the ornaments of fame and glory. In this, Patriarchs and Prophets exerted themselves in the several periods of ancient time. This was the cause in which the Apostles of our Lord spent their days and their lives. In this the Angels of God have been employed : Yea and what is more, for this end the Son of God himself came down from heaven. — In such a cause what can be wanting to give firmness and to give dignity to the mind?
We ardently wish you the blessing of heaven in the whole course of your ministry. May you long go before this people as an example to the believer, their steady friend, and faithful minister. Be thou faithful unto death, and whatever may be your success, yet shall you be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and your God shall be your strength.
Brethren of this Church and Society, we are now going at your request to ordain to the ministry a person who we trust will recommend himself more and more to your esteem. You must hear him with candor; you must encourage him with kindness; and have him highly in love for his works sake. The best way to profit by his ministry, is to keep up a serious sense of religion in your own hearts. No church can be under stronger obligations than you are to preserve the religion of Jesus pure and undefiled. Here those good men who came into this part of America for the sake of religion formed the first church. We reverence their memories: And when we look to their days, we cannot but admire the faith, virtue, and magnanimity, with which they were governed. It was their joy to see a church of Christ gathered in this land. But little did they imagine they were laying the foundation for a great and mighty empire: Or that the providence of God from so small beginnings would produce such important events as have already taken place. There is no instance in the history of mankind in which a regard to religion has produced such great and mighty effects: The grand errand into America ought never to be forgot. And you are distinguished among the churches of Christ in this land by the length of days, may you also be distinguished by the piety, the simplicity, the brotherly love, and the public spirit of ancient times.
We rejoice with you in your present prospects. May you and your minister prove mutual blessings here. And when your course shall be finished on the earth may you meet each other in that state where the good men of all ages shall be gathered, and where the spirits of the just shall be made perfect.
Permit me now, My Friends of this Assembly, to address you all on the things of you peace. There are times in which it may be expected that the minds of men should be roused up to attention to great and important objects. Such a time is present. God in his holy providence is now working wonders in the views of all mankind; and bringing about events which greatly concern our temporal interests. Every man ought to bear in mind that he is born to scenes infinitely greater, and more important than any you now behold. Yet a little while and the whole scene of temporal things will be no more. You will all be translated to another country; and you will enter upon an unchangeable state of existence. It is a matter of great moment whether you shall be poor or rich on the earth, in freedom or in bondage? And is it a matter of less concern whether you shalt be heirs of everlasting shame or glory? Is your state on the earth for a few fleeting years of such importance? And is it of less importance what shall be your state through endless ages?
Wherefore, my Hearers, as the ministry of reconciliation is committed to us, we beseech you in the most earnest manner, that you would attend in this your day to the things of your salvation. The only religion that will prove saving to you, is a believing, penitent, obedient submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. All that is sacred in religion, all that is valuable in nature, all that is eternal in duration should lead you to this. “For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4. 12. — Be persuaded then, Brethren, to make a proper improvement of all the advantages you now enjoy. By attending to your duty to God, you will most effectually discharge your duty to yourselves, to your families, and to your country. It is from the men of principle and virtue that we must look for peace and happiness on the earth : and it is such only that will be received to glory another day. God of his infinite mercy grant that this may be the case with each one of you through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The CHARGE, by the Rev. Mr. Diman.
As you Sir are, by the providence of God, called to the important work of the Ministry, and have signified your ready compliance with this call : We, as ministers of Christ, do now, in his name, solemnly separate and ordain you to the great work to which you are called. And we in a particular manner commit to your pastoral care the flock of Christ which usually meets in this house for divine worship.
And we solemnly charge you, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, that you use your utmost endeavors faithfully to perform the duties of your office, and fully to discharge the important trust reposed in you. And that in order hereto, you give yourself to reading, meditation and prayer; that you study the holy scripture, and make them your rule — preach the word, not the doctrines and commandments of men. Be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. Study to shew yourself approved of God; a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Administer the sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s supper to proper subjects. And dispense the discipline of the church according to Christ’s appointment, with prudence and impartiality fearing the face of no man; nor having any man’s peron in admiration because of advantage.
Finally we exhort and charge you to set a good example before your hearers : Pray and strive that the same mind may be in you that was in Christ. Follow his example, that your people may safely follow yours.
Thus we give you charge in the fight of god, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate, witnessed a good confession, that you keep this commandment without spot, unbreakable until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And now Rev. and dear Sir, though we sincerely congratulate you on your being so happy as to have the unanimous suffrage of this people, in your present settlement with them; yet we thing it proper to caution you against depending too much on the long continuance of their esteem and affection. Many have had the same hopeful prospect that you now have, and have been disappointed. If some of those who now appear to be your warmest friends, should hereafter prove your worst enemies, it would be no more than what has happened in many instances, with respect to others. Not only common ministers, but inspired apostles have experienced this. The apostle Paul at his first preaching among the Galatians, was so greatly admired and beloved by them, that they would if it had been possible, have pulled out their eyes and given to him; yet their hearts were soon alienated from him, yea, and set against him; which caused him to expostulate with them saying, “Where is the blessedness which ye spake of? Am I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” Nay further, our blessed Saviour himself experienced it. They who seemed most joyfully to welcome him to Jerusalem, crying “hosanna to the son of David, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,” a few days after cryed out “crucify him, crucify him.”
If you dear Sir, should hereafter experience any treatment of this kind, thing not that some strange thing has happened to you. Be prepared for the worst: Arm yourself with fortitude and resolution: Fear God rather than man: Keep a good conscience, by keeping close to your duty: And if you thus secure the friendship of God, you need not fear what men can do to you. Their abuse of you will turn to your advantage. If you suffer with Christ, you will also be glorified with him.
Let not my Brethren of this flock of Christ, think that what I have now said, hath proceeded from any suspicion in me that they would be more likely than others, to treat their minister ill. This was far from my thoughts: I had in view the people at large, at this time of great degeneracy and wickedness. Now iniquity so greatly abounds, and the love of many is waxed so very cold: Now the Lord’s day is so shamefully profaned, and the ordinances of the Gospel neglected: Now the ministers of Christ, in general, are slighted, and many of them treated with cruel injustice, by being denied that support which was promised them, and to which they are entitled by the sacred law of God. By this means, some have been reduced to a state of poverty and distress, and then perhaps treated with still greater contempt, for their poverty, even by those who have brought it upon them. Some are treated ill by their hearers, as St. Paul was, because they tell them the truth; because they put them in mind of their wickedness and danger, and exhort them to repent and reform. Some prejudice their children and others against their ministers, not only by their hard speeches against them, but by refusing to attend their public performances; pretending that they can improve their time better at home. But alas, how do they improve it! How do they spend that precious time, which God, in mercy to us, hath set apart for those religious exercises whereby we may be trained up for another and better world? Perhaps in idleness or worldly business, and too often in that which is in itself sinful.
These I look upon to be some of the crying sins of the land, and what have a threatening aspect upon this people, and have therefore thought it a duty, on this occasion, to bear this public testimony against them. 8 If wickedness should increase much longer, as it has done a few years past, what shall we come to! Religion will be at an end, and consequently the well-being of this people: We can then expect nothing but destruction. My Brethren in the ministry, let us cry aloud and not spare: Let us shew the people their transgressions and sins—warn them of their danger, and exhort them to repent and reform, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. And if Israel be not gathered, and however ill we may be treated by wicked men, we shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord.
My Brethren of this society, behold the man who, at your desire, hath now been solemnly set apart to the work of the ministry among you. You have manifested great regard for him; let not trifles—mere human infirmities abate it. Still esteem him highly in love for his work’s sake. Do all in your power to encourage his heart and strengthen his hands. Give him a sufficient support, that he may be as free as possible from all worldly cares: That he may give himself wholly to the work of the ministry, which we trust he is sincerely desirous to do. And may the Lord bless both him and you, and make you great mutual blessings. May you live in love and peace here, and at last meet and be happy together forever in God’s kingdom above. Amen.
The RIGHT HAND of FELLOWSHIP,
by the Rev. Mr. Barnard of Salem.
MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD, said Jesus the divine Author of Christianity. It is founded upon a nobler basis, and is indebted for its support, to worthier measures.
Interest, a rapacious thirst for conquest and extensive dominion have been in general, the governing principle of political bodies: Ever intent upon these favorite objects, their declarations of amity, and most applauded acts of kindness, have been but a mere disguise, which at the instant they could seize them, has been thrown aside. Sad has been the consequence! War attended with base violations of faith, and wanton acts of cruelty, has almost continually subsisted between them, and when peace has been established, even peace, has been but the prelude of renewed contention and calamity.
But the nobler principle, which the Prince of peace meant should actuate his body the Church, is Love—that gentleness of foul which soothes every turbulent passion, and generous sympathy with others, which influences us to do them the kindest services. How happy would have been the Christian community, had its members uniformly proved themselves the disciples of Jesus, by loving one another!
But alas! the spirit of this world has entered this sacred enclosure, and as its influence is ever the same, it has here produced the same unhappy effects. The Church of Christ has divided into sects, and with ungodly and inhuman zeal have the different parties aimed at the preeminence. Instead of uniting to maintain peace and love, amidst variety of sentiments, and to promote unfeigned piety and virtue, the grand design of its institution, their zeal has been spent about trifles in comparison: They have traduced, anathematized, and butchered each other for the sake of speculative principles, uninfluential upon practice, and forms and ceremonies, which can never make men like to God.
The Right Hand of Fellowship, on such occasions as the present, I suppose was designed as evidential of a temper, opposite to that of party and private interest, and disposed to encourage every good man who takes upon himself the office of a Christian minister: This part of the solemnity of the day has been devolved upon me, by the council now convened.
I do therefore, DEAR BROTHER, give you this RIGHT HAND, in their name, as a testimony of our unfeigned friendship for you, and readiness to serve you, as a minister of Jesus. This HAND is given you not as a deceitful compliment according to the spirit of this world. But in sincerity and truth, which are the glory of the Christian character. This act you may esteem a most solemn declaration on our part, that you shall have a place near our hearts, and that we will improve every opportunity to serve you, while you, endeavor on yours, to promote the great interests of mankind by your Christian doctrines and example, which is the great end of your office; while you keep yourself distant from the spirit of party, and aim not by mean and ungodly arts to build up your own interest with the consistency and dignity of a good man and a Christian, we wish you, BROTHER, the best of divine blessings. May you in this state, in every thing respectable whom you succeed in this desk: And in that which is coming may you receive the plaudit of your Judge, and a crown of immortal glory.
My brethren of this Church, I feel happy this day, that as God in his wise providence, has seen fit to deprive you of the labors of your late Pastor, who was uncommonly dear to you: He has also seen fit so intimately to connect you with a person of Mr. Prince’s fine temper and respectable abilities. But I feel peculiarly so, when I consider, that this event unites our Churches together, which were originally of the same body in every Christian office of love and friendship.
May this divine temper be cherished by us with constant care, and diffuse itself through all our churches, that this town may be eminently a City of peace and love.
1 Verse 8, 9, 10, 11, and 13. (Return)
2 Littleton. (Return)
3 Dr. Price. (Return)
4 Montesquieu. (Return)
5 “Every thing tends to this point: The progress of good in the new hemisphere, and the progress of evil in the old. In proportion as our people are weakened, and resign themselves to each other’s dominion, population and agriculture will flourish in America; and the arts make a rapid progress: And that country rising out of nothing, will be fired with the ambition of appearing with glory in its turn on the face of the globe. O posterity! Ye peradventure will be more happy than your unfortunate and contemptible ancestors.” Abbe Raynal. (Return)
6 Let us set before our eyes, on the one hand, the continual massacres of the kings and generals of the Greeks and Romans; and, on the other, the destruction of people and cities by those famous conquerors—who ravaged Asia and we shall see, that we owe to Christianity, in government , a certain political law; and in war, a certain law of nations; benefits which human nature can never sufficiently acknowledge.” Montesquieu. (Return)
7 “Haec est Christianismi regula, haec illius exacta defer itio, hic vertex supra omnia eminens, publicae utilitati consulere.” Chrysostom. (Return)
8 What did our Saviour mention, in his lamentation over Jerusalem, as the grand procuring cause of their approaching destruction, but their ill treatment of the ministers of religion? Mat. 23: 37. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, &c. (Return)