John Foster (1771-1839) preached this sermon in Massachusetts on the state’s annual fast day of April 4, 1805.
S E R M O N
TO THE FIRST AND THIRD SOCIETIES
ON THE ANNIVERSARY FAST IN MASSACHUSETTS,
4 April, 1805;
BY JOHN FOSTER A. M.
PASTOR OF THE THIRD CHURCH AND CONGREGATION
IN THAT TOWN.
EZEKIEL, vii. 23.
Make a chain; for the land is full of bloody crimes---
The Jewish scriptures, beside their primary design to prepare the way for the advent of the promised Messiah, and illustrate the nature and divinity of his mission, disclose to our view the invariable process of divine providence in the government of nations. The various incidents, in the history of this chosen people, “happened unto them for ensamples, and are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1 Even the messages of the prophets, which relate originally to them, in conjunction with their appropriate sense, admit of a secondary and more general application: For “no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation.” 2 It was the common, if not the constant practice of those “holy men of old, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” 3 with a principal, to connect a subordinate object; and at once to foretell the fate of their countrymen, and admonish the rest of mankind. By this mean, “the benefit of their predictions, instead of being confined to “one occasion, or to one people, is extended to every “subsequent period of time,” 4 and to all parts of the habitable earth. Hence, when Ezekiel denounces the judgments of heaven against the Jews, on account of their aggravated offences, the spirit of the denunciation may be transferred to all other political bodies, which have imitated their impiety and rebellion. America, therefore, in common with every other section of the globe, may be instructed and warned by the solemn words, to which our attention is directed.
The prophecy, of which these words are a part, was delivered in the fourteenth year of the Babylonish captivity; and was designed to apprize the Jews, whom Nebuchadnezzer had already brought into Chaldea, of the dreadful calamities which still impended their devoted country. These calamities he exhibits under the bold and impressive metaphor of a chain; a metaphor often employed in modern as well, as ancient times, to signify a state of abject dependence and servitude. Without descending to detail, it gives to slavery a kind of visible form; and fills, and overwhelms the imagination with an indistinct and gloomy view of the countless miseries, resulting from the loss of rational liberty, and a consequent subjection to the capricious cruelty of arbitrary and lawless power. It invites the tyrants and oppressors of the age to feed their ambition to the full, upon the spoils of those, who had criminally exposed themselves to their arts or arms.
To this awful catastrophe the Jews had been hastening for many years. Ever since the defection of Jeroboam and the ten tribes, both Judah and Israel had degenerated with a rapidity, unknown to former times. The idolatrous institutions, and the impious example of this aspiring chief incurably corrupted the public morals. The apostacy of the ten tribes had already produced its penal effects, and subjected them to the Assyrian yoke; 5 and the sins of Judah had received a partial punishment in the successful invasions of the king of Babylon and other neighbouring enemies. 6 Still however she repented not; nor was it, afterward, in the power of her most pious and patriotic princes to close the floodgates of iniquity, and accomplish her effectual amendment. From the account of what Josiah, the last good king of Judah attempted, 7 with a view to stop the progress of idolatry, and put an end to every other abomination, it clearly appears that the most atrocious and execrable vices had been introduced under the former reigns, and openly practiced ever since. Menassah, in particular, the grandfather of Josiah, had set all the obligations of religion and morality at defiance, and committed unexampled outrages upon his subjects. “He filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, which the Lord would not pardon.” 8 His wickedness diffused its baneful influence among all ranks of the people, who, making it their own by adoption, at once increased their guilt and accelerated their ruin. On this ground it is, that the prophet threatens them with the severest tokens of divine displeasure. “Make a chain; for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence. Wherefore, saith the Lord,” as he proceeds to explain and enforce the threatening, “wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they shall possess their houses: I will also make the pomp of the strong to cease, and their holy places shall be defiled. Destruction cometh, and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none. Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumor shall be upon rumor; hen shall they seek a vision from the prophet: but the law shall perish from the priests, and counsel from the ancients. The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled. I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them.” All this was literally accomplished in the course of a few years; when Nebuchadnezzer again besieged and took Jerusalem, and having seized king Zedekiah and his household, slew his sons before his face, barbarously deprived him of sight, loaded him with fetters of brass, carried him away captive, and sent Nebuzaradan, the captain of his guards to plunder and burn the temple and city, to demolish its walls, and to transplant the remaining inhabitants of the land to Babylon. Here they remained in degrading bondage, till Babylon itself was conquered by Cyrus, and annexed to the Persian empire. 9
With this signal instance of divine justice in view, need I adduce arguments to prove that the general prevalence of profligate opinions and manners tends, both in the nature of things, and by the decree of heaven, to the total destruction of national independence, and individual freedom?
This is the awakening truth, which our subject inculcates; a truth attested by the history of all generations of men, from the beginning of the world to this day. Did time permit, it would be no less instructive, than curious to observe the alternate rise and fall of the mighty empires, kingdoms, and states which once shone in the Eastern Hemisphere; and to trace the wonderful conduct of providence, in overruling and employing the passions of men, who in their hearts “meant not so,” 10 for the chastisement, or extirpation of licentious communities. At one period, we behold the Egyptians, unrivalled in science and power, stretching forth the iron rod of oppression over the children of Israel, while as yet they were few in number. Anon this despised handful of bondmen are, by a series of extraordinary events, emancipated from the cruel tyranny of their masters; conducted to “a land flowing with milk and honey;” 11 and, in their turn, made the scourge of the idolatrous Canaanites. In process of time they become a great and prosperous people; but “forgetting the God that made and established them,” 12 and claiming the fatal liberty of “doing what was right in their own eyes,” 13 they split into factions among themselves, and the kingdom is rent asunder. At once demoralized and weakened by this separation, Israel falls an easy prey to the Assyrians, and Judah to the Babylonians. Nor is the pride of Assyria, or the superstition of Egypt suffered to go unpunished. The same Babylonians, who had subjugated the Jews, carry their victorious arms into both these countries, and humble their inhabitants in the dust. Elated by success, great Babylon herself at length fills up the measure of her sins, and the Medes and Persians are ready to execute deserved vengeance upon her. The Medes and Persians, blended into one extensive and potent empire, become effeminate, luxurious, and haughty; till they tempt and provoke the Greeks to invade their dominions, and are overrun and vanquished by that warlike people. Enervated and subdued by the vices of their Asiatic conquests; and rendered factious and faithless by licentious and visionary theories of liberty, the Greeks are next compelled to relinquish their proud distinction; bow submissive to the more practical policy and persevering courage of the Romans; and descend to the degraded condition of a dependant and tributary province. The Romans, after rising to the highest summit of human grandeur; commanding the respect and homage of remotest climes; and destroying nations not a few, fall victims to their own vices, and are overcome and dispossessed by hordes or barbarians, who once trembled and fled at the approach of their legions.
Such was the tragic end of these ancient nations! “And surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon them, to remove them out of his sight for their sins;” 14 not however by any immediate or miraculous interposition of providence, a few instances relating to the Jews excepted, but by the natural operation and connection of events. Their sins were the visible cause of their destruction. Read the prophecies which describe their character, and denounce their doom; or the histories which detail their sufferings and trace them to their origin, and you cannot be ignorant that the crimes and errors which prevailed among them, were obviously calculated to produce the identical effects, in which they finally resulted. “They ate the fruit of their own way, and were filled with their own devices.” 15
But why should we recur to antiquity, when examples in point are exhibited in modern times? Among these examples, France holds a conspicuous rank, and speaks instruction and warning to the whole civilized world. In the progress of her late revolution, countless numbers have fallen by the cruel hands of political fanatics, who, with vociferous pretensions to ardent patriotism, bade open defiance to the laws, both of God and man, and commenced indiscriminate warfare with every established institution, whether civil or sacred, which was calculated to restrain and regulate the licentious propensities of the human heart. Infatuated and deceived by high sounding professions of regard to their rights, and specious promises of a kind of liberty and equality, which can have no existence, but in the disordered brain of the visionary philosophist, the multitude madly joined in the work of destruction. By the incessant flattery of their vanity and vices, they were rapidly wrought up to a degree of insolence and ferocity, which prepared them, at the nod of those leaders, who exceeded the rest in noise, tumult, and malignity, to prostrate every rival in the dust, and exterminate his family, connections, and friends! Thus encouraged and supported, new clans of tyrants, still more unprincipled and abandoned than the last, constantly aspired to dominion, and murdered and succeeded their predecessors. “The land was fully of bloody crimes,” and the chains of slavery were inevitable.
At this awful crisis, a Corsican adventurer, educated in a military school, and early taught and accustomed to anticipate distinction and fame from the discomfiture and wretchedness of his fellow men, seized he reins, and subjected the nation to a more despotic and arbitrary control than their fathers had known, under the worst of their hereditary kings. In this deplorable condition they must probably remain for ages to come! At least, there is no prospect of their emancipation, but by suffering the tremendous reaction of their revolutionary atrocities, and submitting to bleed afresh at every pore!
“That which has been, is now; and that, which is to be, has already been.” 16 The causes, which, in former ages, approved destructive to civil liberty, are alike injurious in their aspect and tendency at the present day; and will forever continue to produce the same disastrous effects. The great law of gravitation is not more uniform, nor more irresistible in its agency.
Impressed therefore with the solemn truth, that our destiny, like that of the Jews and other nations, to which we have alluded, must be determined by our practice; that if we forsake the God of our fathers, and “walk in the way of our hearts, and in the sight of our eyes,” 17 our envied freedom will gradually disappear, and give place to misrule, anarchy, and despotism, let us bring our character to the test. If found wanting, when weighed in that balance, the infallible correctness of which is asserted by the Spirit of God, and proved by the experience of all the world, let us not, like wicked Ahab, hate and persecute those, who conscientiously “prophesy evil concerning us;” 18 but, like good Josiah, “when we hear the words of the law,” 19 let us “make a covenant before the Lord to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes with all our hearts.” 20
Time was, when America could claim preeminence in piety and good morals; when the things, that are pure and honest, were almost universally approved; when the profligate votaries of licentiousness and irreligion were constrained to hide themselves from the observation and censure of a virtuous community. But “how is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed!” 21 No sooner was our independence achieved and recognized, than the jealousy which had been hitherto directed against the British cabinet, was unreasonably transferred to our own government. The public mind, still impassioned, and indignant at the recollection of injuries received from the exactions of arbitrary power, was predisposed to anticipate encroachment, and to magnify even the necessary restraints of law and justice into acts of oppression. Availing themselves of this prevalent weakness, the dissolute, designing, and desperate, who can never rise to eminence but by turning the world upside down, industriously circulated suspicions and complaints among the people, till many believed themselves ruled with a rod of iron, and daringly resorted to arms for relief, at the very moment when the true cause of their grievances was the want of a more energetic system of policy. A temporary check was given to this destructive infatuation, and its insidious abettors, by the adoption of the federal constitution, and the wise administration of our beloved Washington; which at once conciliated the confidence and respect of surrounding nations, and inspired the pleasing hope of domestic prosperity and peace. But the distracting commotions of Europe soon extended their baneful influence to these western regions, interrupted our growing harmony, and clouded our fairest prospects. These commotions furnished a new, and imposing pretence to those restless beings, who had found it necessary to suspend their labors, not for want of inclination, but for want of means and opportunities to continue them. France, it was proclaimed and echoed, had delivered us from colonial oppression; and was therefore entitled, not only to our gratitude, but to our assistance and imitation. 22 As if we also were engaged in the work of revolution, societies were organized in these States, who claimed fraternity with the Jacobin clubs of the French republic; and openly adopted the same principles, if not the same appellation. 23 In the mean time, increasing swarms of fugitives from the old world were disgorged upon our shores, who, joining in the current clamor for reform, extended and prolonged the reign of licentiousness and innovation. The doctrines of disorganization were repeated, till they became too familiar to excite just alarm. Inured to scenes of political intrigue, and infested by a rancorous spirit of party, we imperceptibly lost that veneration for the gospel and its institutions, and relinquished that purity and simplicity of manners, by which our fathers rose to honor and greatness.
No longer impressed or awed by the solemn truths of revelation, “the wicked walk on every side.” 24 Numbers are found, who professedly “cast off fear and restrain prayer;” 25 represent the bible, as an artful fabrication, calculated by ambitious priests and statesmen to terrify and enslave a credulous world; and recommend, as real and important discoveries, those absurd and impious sophisms, which tend alike to the destruction of social order, and the subversion of all the moral distinctions of right and wrong! Others, who have not the hardihood to avow their apostacy from the Christian faith, have learned, nevertheless, to treat many a clear dictate of reason, and injunction of scripture, as the mere prejudices of ignorance, transmitted from a superstitious ancestry! By exaggerating the enthusiasm and intolerance of former times, and extolling the enlightened liberality of the present, they give a kind of sanction to prevailing dissipation, and are emboldened to “speak peace to themselves, though they walk in the imagination of their hearts!” 26
The frequent exemplification of impious and immortal practice naturally tends to diminish and destroy that aversion, which it necessarily excites in every mind, not habituated to behold it. Hence excesses, which would once have subjected their authors to a universal burst of public indignation and censure, are witnessed without a frown; and, either for want of inclination, or from a persuasion of its impracticability, to fix the merited stigma of disgrace upon unprincipled and abandoned characters is seldom attempted. Such characters, of course, appear with boldness, and spread the contagion of their example far and wide. Beside the alarming prevalence of infidelity, profaneness, luxury, sensuality, and the long catalogue of transgressions, which flow from an undue attachment to sublunary possessions and pleasures, perpetration portending the most insupportable evils to society, and putting everything dear to humanity at immediate hazard, abound among us. Nor are these perpetrations confined to the desperate and shameless votaries of vulgar profligacy. They are displayed, with all their horrors, in the more elevated walks of life; and by men, whose talents and stations give them a most extensive and pernicious influence. Duels have been repeatedly fought by members of our national legislature! And the constituted guardians of our rights disclaiming all jurisdiction over transactions of this nature; and neglecting in any form to bear testimony against them, 27 the horrid practice has rapidly increased, both among rulers and citizens, till a spectacle is presented to our astonished minds, for which history has no parallel, and language no description! The second magistrate of the nation imbrues his hands in the blood of a fellow citizen, whom the dictates of humanity, the obligations of religion, and the oath of office required him to protect from violence and outrage. 28 With these polluted hands he flees from the demands of justice; and, proceeding in a circuitous route to the Capitol, resumes his seat, as PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, and VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! Nor is it once made a question, in either house of Congress, whether he shall continue to retain and exercise the prerogatives of this exalted station! Say not, that the constitution makes no provision for the punishment of such offenders; and therefore, that the discussion and decision of this question would have exceeded the limits of their authority. Does not the constitution provide, that the most dignified officers in the administration shall be impeached and removed for “high crimes and misdemeanors?” 29 If a justice of the Supreme Court of the Union is to be arraigned, as an evil doer, on the unsupported charge of partiality in the conviction and punishment of men, who had confessedly “made insurrection,” and exerted all their talents to bring the government into disrepute and contempt, ought the Vice President, who had notoriously usurped the prerogatives of judge, jury, and executioner in his own cause, not only to escape with impunity, but to preside at the trial? Is this to render “equal justice to men of all opinions, political and religious?” What could more directly tend to multiply those “bloody crimes,” with which the land, if not yet full, is apparently and deeply stained; and which, separate from such other atrocious acts of wickedness, as prevail among us, and in the language of scripture are figuratively said to “defile with blood,” give the dreadful charge in the text a direct and literal application to our guilty country? What, in future, is to set bounds to that virulence of party zeal, which has pervaded the public mind; and what is to prevent “every man from slaying his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor?” 30 If the passions of the wicked are to be uncontrolled; if neither disgrace nor inconvenience is to be attached to the murder of a rival; if both the government and the people are to connive at deeds of horror, and admit the principle of personal revenge and political persecution, the reign of terror will commence in reality; and a perpetual collision of contending factions ensue, till some aspiring demagogue, more bold and successful than the rest, shall usurp supreme command; and “make a chain,” too strong for us, or our children to sever! This, to say the least, is the natural tendency of “violent disorders and implacable discord in free States; they lead to anarchy and end in despotism. There may be much diversity in the process, but the result is nearly the same.
When political disputes are conducted with moderation and candor, they are innocent, and may be useful. But when parties become eager and vehement; when in the heat of contention they loose sight of the public interest, and endeavor to mislead the citizens by false representations, they corrupt the public morals, and tend directly to licentiousness and confusion. In such cases, there would be danger that the most unprincipled would be the most successful. They might resort to measures, which their opponents might be unwilling to adopt; for honest men would disdain to deceive the people, and would never deviate from right conduct to promote any cause, or produce any change in opinions or measures. But if men of corrupt principles should predominate, they might choose rather to submit to a despot of their own selection, than hazard the loss of their ill acquired influence.” 31
Men of corrupt principles and ambitious designs are “the rod of God’s anger,” 32 and employed by his righteous providence to chastise prevailing iniquity. Nor are such men ever wanting in a degenerate and backsliding community. With us, their numbers are increased, and their machinations aided by the continued influx of discontented foreigners; the pernicious effects of which have been remarkably portrayed by an active statesman of our own country. “It is,” says he, “for the happiness of those united in society to harmonize as much as possible in matters which they must of necessity transact together. Civil government being the sole object of forming societies, its administration must be conducted by common consent. Every species of government has its specific principles. Our perhaps are more peculiar than any other in the universe. It is a composition of the freest principles of the English constitution, with others derived from natural reason. To these nothing can be more opposed than the maxims of absolute monarchies. Yet, from such, we are to expect the greatest number of emigrants. They will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or, if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness; passing as is usual from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their numbers, they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its directions, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass.”
Time has proved the truth of this prediction. The evils it anticipates and describes are believed by many to exist among us. Yet no measures are adopted to arrest their progress, or prevent their continuance! On the contrary, the emigration of foreigners is encouraged, and their naturalization facilitated, under the administration, and at the official request of the same active statesman, 33 from whose “NOTES ON VIRGINIA,” 34 the preceding remarks are quoted!
Thus allured to our shores, and admitted to our councils, is it not more than possible that foreigners may ultimately gain an ascendency over us, which open hostility could never insure them? For a time, they may condescend to act in the subordinate capacity of auxiliaries; and aid the party, whose views and wishes are most congenial to their own, to counteract and crush their rivals. Caressed and rewarded for these exertions, will it be miraculous, if their numbers and influence increase, till they become formidable to every description of native Americans, and elevate some daring chieftain of their own, on the ruins of our republican freedom? In any event, will they not transplant the ices and intrigues of the old world into our once united and happy country, and expose us to the awful destiny of being “devoured one of another?” 35 Here, perhaps, our greatest danger lies. Placed at a desirable distance from the more ancient and corrupt regions of the earth, we have little to fear from their arms: and, if we can surmount their arts, may long be exempt from their crimes and miseries. But if their outcast adventurers are to participate with us the rights of suffrage; to take upon themselves the direction of our public prints; 36 and to sustain various and important offices in the national government, 37 our altars, both of liberty and religion are in jeopardy. Security from the invasion of foreign foes can afford little consolation to the reflecting mind, while thus exposed to the insidious machinations of designing men; “carried about by every wind of doctrine;” 38 and apparently hastening into the fatal vortex of those domestic feuds, which admit of no remedy, but the unlimited authority of a master! These are “signs of the times,” 39 which by the attentive observer are as easily discerned, as “the face of the sky.” Reason, revelation, and history conspire to render them obvious, and to point out and prescribe the only effectual antidote. “Now, therefore, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him. Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders; let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar; and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them.” 40
It is impossible to escape the ills, which threaten us, but by combined and individual exertions for the commonweal. If we “mock the messengers of God and despise his words, the anger of the Lord will rise against us, till there is no remedy.” 41 But if we humble ourselves under his mighty hand, and seasonably “ask for the old paths, the good way, and walk therein,” 42 we may yet find rest and safety.
Let us, then, recur to first principles, and test our practice by the long tried maxims of wisdom and virtue. Our fathers esteemed it all important that “they who rule over men, should rule in the fear of God.” 43 In our day, this inspired aphorism has been much contested. Because the national compact requires no particular profession of faith, as a qualification for office, it has been argued, that the citizen has not even a right to prefer the Christian to the infidel candidate; but is bound by the supreme law of the land totally to disregard religious character, in the bestowment of his suffrage. Nothing can be more sophistical and absurd than such reasoning. The proper inference from he fact is directly the reverse. An additional obligation is hence inferred upon us, uniformly to fix our eyes upon the “faithful of the land,” 44 and elevate none to posts of power, but those, whose piety and virtue are unquestionable; those, who have no need to inform us or the world, that they are Christians. Our constitution leaves the ultimate decision of this question, not with those, whose ambition may impel them to falsehood and perjury; but with the community at large, whose interest and duty jointly require circumspection and integrity, in the exercise of the electoral prerogative. It is well known, that infidels have seldom, if ever been deterred from seeking or accepting places of honor and emolument by religious tests.
Collins, and Shaftsbury, two of the most artful, unwearied, and notorious adversaries of Christianity, who have disgraced the English nation, shrunk not from the solemn and impious mockery of receiving the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, as a prerequisite to their investiture with office! 45 Nor can it be expected, that the disciples of such masters will, in any age or country, scruple to adopt means, equally hypocritical and base, for the sake of aggrandizing themselves.
Nothing, I am bold to affirm, nothing short of a decided predilection for evangelical purity, in the source of power, can save the world from the chastisement of wicked rulers. And since in the United States all power emanates from the people, every citizen has the public morals and the public happiness entrusted to his care.
He, who invariably discountenances the unprincipled and dissolute courtiers of popularity, and exclusively supports the friends of religion and virtue, contributes his share to banish guilt and misery from the land, and to multiply the years of our tranquility. He presents a constant and powerful inducement to all, who aim at distinction, to cultivate and exemplify the things that are excellent; and, instead of the obsequious imitator of fashionable iniquity, appears in the dignified attitude of a guardian and guide to his country. But woe to him, who deliberately throws his weight into the scale of impiety and licentiousness, by favoring the promotion of their pestilent votaries. Not to insist on the ruinous effects of evil example in exalted stations, by the encouragement of which he becomes a “partaker of other men’s sins;” 46 and, far beyond the extent of his personal influence, spreads corruption and wretchedness around him; he exposes himself to “make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience.” 47 For in proportion as he contemplates the enemies of the cross with affection, esteem, and confidence, he necessarily looses his former reverence for the doctrines, and precepts of the gospel, which they counteract and despise; suspects its professors, and teachers of arbitrary and tyrannical designs; and proceeds by imperceptible, yet swift degrees, from the dupe to the partisan and advocate of irreligion. Beheld in this light, an awful solemnity, importance, and responsibility are annexed to the obligation in debate. It is no longer a matter of mere political expediency, unconnected with our moral character and destiny, and affecting only our temporal convenience and safety. It is a Christian duty, with which we cannot dispense, but at the risk of our eternal salvation.
Under this impression, be it our ardent desire and endeavor, whenever we are called to the interesting and honorable task, to “provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over us to be rulers.” 48 Let no coincidence of opinion on subjects of less moment, no regard to personal advantage, no partiality to friends induce us to aid the advancement of “bloody or deceitful men,” 49 who “turn the grace of God into lasciviousness; deny the Lord that bought them;” 50 and, “while they promise us liberty, are themselves the servants of corruption.” 51 Having done our utmost to vest integrity and talents with legal authority, let us “lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.” 52
Sensible that human laws extend only to the outward behavior, and that even this is, in many instances, beyond their reach; that conscience is the only tribunal on earth, at which we can be arraigned for many of our actions, and for all our designs; and that it is only by the purity of this internal arbiter of right and wrong, that a great variety of injurious purposes and perpetrations can be prevented, let us cultivate habitual devotion to God, and practice the social, as well, as the personal and divine virtues, in obedience to his holy will. This alone can give worth and stability to our exertions of patriotism, and reconcile us to the frequent sacrifices of private interest and ambition, which the national prosperity and independence may demand.
How desirable, in this view, is the revival of a primitive regard to the Christian Sabbath and worship. The neglect and contempt of these have given rise to a much greater proportion of the immorality and unbelief of our times, than we may imagine. So fascinating are the pleasures, and so engrossing the cares and labors of life, that without the recurrence of stated periods of retirement and meditation; without being often reminded of their relation to a future world, and the obligations it imposes, the best informed, much more the ignorant and unreflecting are soon absorbed by the selfish gratifications and pursuits of time, and loose the main spring of every nobler acquisition and achievement.
Instead therefore of floating with the tide of popular dissipation and excess, let us take a resolute and active part. Let us resist “the overflowing scourge” 53 of foreign influence and foreign vice, and while we stem the torrent of modern innovation, let us revere and recommend those ancient institutions, usages, and manners, which are so obviously adapted to the preservation of social order, and individual enjoyment. For the sake, both of ourselves and others, let us pay an exemplary attention to every mean of moral improvement, which reason and scripture prescribe. In this way, let us imbibe the spirit of the gospel, and prepare ourselves to “serve our generation by the will of God.” 54 While in our closets and families as well, as in the house of prayer, we bewail our own, and the sins of the land; deprecate the righteous displeasure of heaven, and implore divine forgiveness and protection, let us exert our respective influence to excite a general attention to “the things, which belong to our peace, before they are hidden from our eyes.” 55 “For behold the Lord cometh out of his place, to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity.” 56 Europe, deluged in blood, and deprived of every alternative but slavery or war, calls aloud to America, to know and improve “the day of her visitation.” 57 Beside the powerful motives, which always result from a due regard to our present and future welfare, the peculiar situation of our country, and I may add of all Christendom urges the fitness and necessity of decision. “Never,” to conclude in the words of a late impressive writer, 58 “never were times more eventful and critical; never were appearances more singular and interesting, in the political, or in the religious world. You behold, on the one hand, infidelity with dreadful irruption, extending its ravages far and wide; and on the other, an amassing accession of zeal and activity to the cause of Christianity. Error, in all its forms, is assiduously and successfully propagated; but the progress of evangelical truth is also great. The number of the apparently neutral party daily diminishes, and men are now, either becoming worshippers of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, or receding fast through the mists of skepticism into the dreary regions of speculative and practical atheism. It seems as if Christianity and infidelity were mustering each the host of the battle, and preparing for some great day of God. The enemy is come in like a flood; but the spirit of the Lord hath lift up a standard against him. Who then is on the Lord’s side? Let him come forth to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.”
1. I Cor. X XI. (Return)
2. I Pet. i. 20. (Return)
3. Ibid. 2I. (Return)
4. Bishop Porteus’ Lectures. New Haven edit. 1803. Page 302. (Return)
5. 2 Kings, chap. xvii. (Return)
6. Ibid. xxiv. I, 2. (Return)
7. Ibid. chap. xxiii. (Return)
8. Ibid. xxiv. 4. (Return)
9. 2 Kings, chap. xxvi. – Also 2 Chron. xzxvi. 17, ad fin. (Return)
10. Isaiah, x 7. (Return)
11. Exod. Xiii. 5. (Return)
12. Deut. Xxxii. 6. (Return)
13. Judges, xxi. 25. (Return)
14. 2 Kings, xxiv.3. (Return)
15. Prov. i. 3I. (Return)
16. Eccles. Iii. 15. (Return)
17. Ibid. xi. 9. (Return)
18. 2 Kings, xxii. 8. (Return)
19. 2 Kings xxii. 2. (Return)
20. 2 Kings, xxiii. 3. (Return)
21. Lam. Iv 3. (Return)
22. If the reader will be at the pains of reviewing the public prints of that period, he will readily ascertain the truth of this remark. In the mean time, he is presented with two short extracts, in point, from a “SERMON” published at the Chronicle press, Boston in the year 1795, and addressed to a respectable Clergyman in the county of Middlesex. “PAR CITOYEN DE NOVION;” a native American, (as he has been reputed, and a man too of high pretensions to patriotism; but not a preacher of the Gospel) whose love for France absorbed his proper name, and country; and constrained him, in the person and style of a Frenchman, to say; “You have grossly insulted and abused our nation, which saved years in a very generous and unexpected manner from impending ruin. America would not have become a nation; and your Washington, your Jefferson, your Hancock, and Adams would have now been numbered with traitors and felons, if it had not have been for us. And the returns of gratitude which we receive, are slanders and calumnies.” Page 7. “We, Sir, shall succeed, and shall establish our liberties, and AGAIN give aid in saving those of United America from foreign despotism.” Page 24. (Return)
23. Here again “De Novion” speaks to the purpose. After tracing the word Jacobin, to the name of a convent in Paris, where the sittings of the Club were first held, he adds: “But it was their system, not their house, which rendered them so odious in the eye of European despots, and in that of some Anglo American politicians.” Page 21. (Return)
24. Psalm xii.8. (Return)
25. Job, xv. 4. (Return)
26. Deut. Xxix. 19. (Return)
27. A motion was brought forward in congress during the session of 1802, (if I mistake not) designed to punish, or at least to discountenance this barbarous custom. This motion, however, was rejected, as beyond the power, vested in the representatives and guardians of the people. And yet the Constitution expressly provides, (Article II, Sect. 5.) that “each house may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.” (Return)
28. “No person,” says the 7 article of amendments to the Constitution, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment, or indictment of a grand jury; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself; not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” As Vice President of the United States, Col. Burr had solemely sworn “to support this Constitution.” Did he then, or did he not perjure himself, when he took the life of General Hamilton, without indictment or process of law? (Return)
29. The words of the Constitution are, “The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, OR OTHER HIGH CRIME AND MISDEMEANORS.” Article II. Sec. 4.(Return)
30. Exodus, xxxii, 27. (Return)
31. See Gov. Strong’s excellent speech to the legislature of Massachusetts, published in the Repertory of January 22, 1805. (Return)
32. Isaiah, x. 5. (Return)
33. Thomas Jefferson Esq. now President of the United States; who, in his first message to Congress, after his induction to office, holds the following language. “I cannot omit to recommend a revisal of the law, on the subject of naturalization. Considering the ordinary chances of human life, a denial of citizenship under fourteen years, is a denial to a great proportion of those who ask it; and controls a policy, pursued from their first settlement, by many of these States, and still believed of consequence to their prosperity. And shall we refuse to the unhappy fugitives from distress that hospitality, which the savages of the wilderness extended to our fathers, arriving in this land? Shall oppressed humanity find no asylum on this globe? The Constitution has wisely provided that for admission to certain offices of important trust, a residence shall be required sufficient to develop character and design. But might not the general character, and capabilities of a citizen b safely communicated to everyone, manifesting a bona fide purpose of embarking his life and fortunes permanently with us?” (Return)
34. Pages 119, 120 of H. Sprague’s Boston Edition, 1802. (Return)
35. Galatians, v. I5. (Return)
36. Already are a very considerable proportion of the leading newspapers in the United States edited by foreigners. Whether these imported editors, who have undertaken the philanthropic task of teaching Americans how to be free, “have brought with them the principles of the governments, they have left;” or whether they have “thrown them off in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness;” or whether they have wrought “a miracle, and stopped at the precise point of rational liberty,” is worthy the serious inquiry both of their patrons and opposers. (Return)
37. The number of native Europeans, who represent the people of the United States in both houses of Congress, and hold places of trust and influence in other departments of the administration, has long been a subject of regret and alarm to many honest, patriotic, and intelligent citizens. (Return)
38. 2 Chron. xxxvi. 16. (Return)
39. Matth. xvi. 3. (Return)
40. Joel, ii. 12-17. (Return)
41. Ephes. Iv. 14. (Return)
42. Jeremiah, vi. 16. (Return)
43. 2 Sam. xxiii. 3. (Return)
44. Psalm, ci. 6. (Return)
45. See Fuller’s “Gospel its own witness” p. 75. New York edit. 1802. (Return)
46. I Tim. v. 22. (Return)
47. I Tim. i. 19. (Return)
48. Exod. xviii. 21. (Return)
49. Psal. v. 6. (Return)
50. Jude, ver. 4. (Return)
51. 2 Pet. ii. 19. (Return)
52. I. Tim. ii. 2. (Return)
53. Isaiah, xxviii. 12. (Return)
54. Acts, xiii. 36. (Return)
55. Luke, xix 42. (Return)
56. Isaiah, xxvi. 21. (Return)
57. Luke, xix. 45. (Return)
58. Ferrier’s discourses delivered at Paisly (Eng.) June 1798. (Return)