Elijah Parish (1762-1825) graduated from Dartmouth in 1785. He was the pastor of a church in Byfield, MA (1787-1825). This sermon was preached by Parish on the fast day of April 7, 1814.
THE PUBLIC FAST,
APRIL 7, 1814
BY ELIJAH PARISH, D.D.
A DISCOURSE, &c.
EXODUS 5. 17, 18.
BUT HE SAID, YE ARE IDLE YE ARE IDLE; THEREFORE YE SAY, LET US GO AND
DO SACRIFICE TO THE LORD.
GO THEREFORE NOW, AND WORK: FOR THERE SHALL NO STRAW BE GIVEN
YOU, YET SHALL YE DELIVER THE TALE OF BRICKS.
That evil exists in the world, requires no proof. That tyranny and despotism are not among the smallest evils, which afflict the family of man, will be generally allowed; yet from the days of Nimrod to Napoleon, the earth has trembled under the iron foot of her tyrants. Their swords devour more than the pestilence; streams of blood follow their course; the sighs of the nations, and the tears of the world, are extorted chiefly by their oppression. The greater part of the windows, and the orphans, and the poor, and the miserable, and the dying, execrate them as the authors of their woes. Nor is this ferocious despotism peculiar to one form of government; whatever government is worst administered is worst. The Republics of Rome and Venice, and perhaps another, which alone exists, have been as oppressive as the despotism of Turkey, of Persia, or Japan.
Nor is it the least among the proofs of a divine superintendency, that great “good is often educed” from these political evils. Had not the barbarous despotism of Egypt extorted tears of blood and sighs of desperation, from the posterity of Jacob, they might possibly, till this day, have been the slaves of her servile princes, the vassals of her imported Mamelukes, repairing the cities, which their fathers built, plowing the fields, manured with their fathers’ bones. The sons of Israel were passionately attached to their union with this ancient Dominion. They and their fathers had been in the country about two hundred years. 1 They no longer had any predilection for the country of their forefathers nativity; they preferred the turbid Nile, to all the waters of Canaan; the plains of Egypt, to all the hills of Judea. So rooted were their attachments to their present connection, notwithstanding their oppressions, that Moses, who knew them well, so despaired of rousing them to demand their independence, that he said, “They will not hearken to my voice.” So it happened. After he had called on them, to redress their grievances themselves, instead of writing petitions; to act, instead of making melancholy faces; they met him, and said, “Ye have made our name to be abhorred;” “ye have put a sword in their hands to slay us.” You frighten us, and you will ruin us, by your bold preachments. “So they hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage. The political measures, which Moses urged, appeared rash and violent. Moderation was the popular doctrine; it therefore, became necessary that God in His providence should afflict, and distress, and ruin them, by the abominable measures of their government, to render them willing to adopt suitable measures for their own advantage.
To mention some of Israel’s oppressions, noticing any points of resemblance in our own country, which may happen to occur, and suggesting some happy results of those oppressions, is the present design.
I. I am to mention some of Israel’s woes.
1. The exactions and hard services of the government were among the evils endured by Israel. They were compelled to build the cities of Pithom and Raamses, to which it is thought, have succeeded Damietta and Cairo; They were probably compelled to raise the pyramids, those stupendous wonders of the world. These grievous hardships wore out their strength, exhausted their patience, and blasted their hopes. Exod. 5. 11. 13, 14. Their labours were, as various, as they were oppressive. The object of their tyrants was, not merely to enrich or aggrandize themselves; but to discourage and break down the spirits of Israel, to change the state of society, to bend their sturdy minds, to new modes of employment. Therefore, they made them serve in mortar, and brick, and in the field. New manufactures were, probably, established; or old ones extended. In the fields they might dig canals from the river, or carry out manure, while the pyramids demanded the greater part of their time. These, though externally, coated with stone, are partly of brick, just such brick, as the Israelites made, having straw or stubble, incorporated with the clay. Accordingly history informs us, that Sesostris, whom a learned writer 2 supposes to be the Pharaoh of scripture, caused it to be inscribed on all his great works. “No native Egyptian labored on this.” If strangers performed these labours, who so probably as the enslaved Israelites? Taskmasters were set over them; princes of burdens, it may be rendered. The laws were unjust; the manner of executing them was barbarous. Josephus says that his countrymen were forced to dig canals, to raise walls, to build the pyramids, and finally, that they were forced to learn all sorts of mechanic arts. It is therefore, an old scheme of cunning Tyrants, to drive their people from commerce and agriculture, to engage them in manufactures. This enfeebles their powers of body and mind, and makes them fit for slaves, and tools of despots. Therefore, the daring sons of Abram were no longer permitted to sail on the “Great Sea” to “the mart of nations, whose merchants were princes.” They were not allowed to navigate the Red Sea; nor to bring spices and all precious things from the East.
I do not pretend to discover any likeness between the Pharaohs of Egypt, and the Presidents of America. If all intelligent hearers perceive a surprising resemblance, between their laws and measures, I pray you to remember that Pharaoh was raised up to afflict, to punish, and ruin his wicked country; our rulers are chosen, and approved by the people. They are, therefore, pronounced honorable men. Would any people choose Pharaohs to crush and ruin their best hopes?
2. Another grievance of Israel was, their hopes of domestic felicity were blasted; their sons were torn from them. This order of the Egyptian government argues, that they had lost all the sentiments of humanity, that they sported with the rights of their subjects, that they must have been the terror of the people and the scourges of God.
“But why is this introduced? Has anything resembling this taken place in this Christian country, of chosen Rulers? Has any little Moses been heard weeping on the river?”---Ye, who make these enquiries are abundantly able to return the answer. Concerning two unprincipled and profligate laws, judge ye, which is the most infamous and abominable. With the balance of truth and candor in your hands, say then, which is the most horrible law, that which consigns an infant offspring to the tomb; or that which declares an offensive war, against a whole nation, which involves all the people of your own country in the guilt and calamities of war; which drafts your sons by thousands and hundreds of thousands, to march against a friendly province, commanding them to murder and destroy, and probably to be slain or perish themselves? Which law is most terrible, that which puts in jeopardy a part of the infants in one nation; or that, which puts in jeopardy all the people of two nations, which lets loose the sword and conflagration, with their attendant evils, famine, terror and pestilence in two countries?
It is conjectured by the learned 3 that the law of Pharaoh, against the male infants of Israel, did not take place, till after the birth of Aaron, and was repealed soon after the birth of Moses; or else 80 years after, the males could not have amounted to 600,000 able men. It is also the united opinion of Commentators and of the learned in general, that this edict was repealed at the death of the king, who first published it, which they suppose happened 4 years after the birth of Moses, and that it never was executed to any great extent. This is made certain by the scripture history; the agents appointed to execute the law were rebuked for their neglect, and God rewarded them for disobeying the wicked law. The law perhaps was originally restricted to the vicinity of the court; and therefore, only two midwives were sufficient to execute the law. This demonstrates, that the law extended only to a very small district. But our Rulers have given commission, not to two women, two feeble women, but to the whole veteran armies of Britain, with their navy of a thousand ships, to murder, burn and destroy New England. A thousand times as many sons of America have probably fallen victims of this ungodly war, as perished in Israel by the edict of Pharaoh. Still the war is only beginning; if ten thousand have fallen, ten thousand times ten thousand may fall. Say then ye, who are wise; ye, who are considerate, whose calamities have been the most terrible, the sons of Jacob, or the sons of America? Whose Rulers have been most greedy of blood? Which people have had most cause to adopt measures of relief?
3. The petitions of Israel, and their manly remonstrances, were treated with neglect; they produced no effect, but to multiply their vexations and burdens.
“Then the officers of Israel cried to Pharaoh; Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants; ye say to us, make brick; behold thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people. (But he said,) ye are idle, ye are idle, Go, therefore now and work; for no straw shall be given you; yet ye shall deliver the tale of brick;” and the officers of Israel did see, that they were in an evil case; after it was said, “ye shall not minish aught from your bricks of your daily tasks.” “They did see that they were in an evil case.” This required no wizard eyes, long before; yet they could reproach Moses, for attempting their emancipation.
Unhappy Israel, had thy father Jacob anticipated such a result; had he forseen these miseries of his posterity, had he seen your ignominious, servile endurance, would he have left his native country? Would he have united his interest with Egypt? Would he not rather have starved in Canaan? The petitions had been respectful and pathetic; yet they provoke increasing vengeance; they pull down increasing calamities. At first they only excluded them from their usual occupations, requiring them to build one or two cities for the NATION, for the public good. Then they made them serve with rigor, in mortar and brick rearing those lofty tombs of their kings, or temples of their gods. Then they sent them into their fields to dig ditches. Then they made war upon their sons; and last of all, deprived them of straw, with-held their means; yet would not lessen the demands of government. Such is the process of despotism; she begins with little; like the grave, she takes all. Was ever a savage yell more terrible, than a tyrant’s voice? “Let the people gather straw where they can find it;” so the people were scattered through the land. Those who had been shepherds, learned to burn brick; the sailors joined the army; the merchants went to build cities; others dug clay. These were the fruits of their petitions. Such is always the fruit of petitions to a mercenary, venal government. They are a society organized for mischief. “To abandon usurped power, to renounce lucrative error, are sacrifices, which the virtue of individuals has on some occasions, offered to truth; but from any society of men no such effect can be expected. The corruptions of a society, recommended by common utility and justified by universal practice, are viewed by its members without shame or horror; and reformation never proceeds from themselves; but is always forced upon them by some foreign hand.” 4 You may as well expect the cataract of Niagara to turn its current to the head of Superior, and rush over the western mountains, as a wicked Congress to make a pause in the work of destroying their country, while the people will furnish the means. Not their petitions; but their march to Canaan, relieved the woes of Israel, and instantly stopped the work on the last pyramid, which has not been finished to this day.
With what puerile simplicity, then is it asked. “Will not the peace in Europe, or the dastardly conduct of our armies, give us peace?” No. Our disasters are a part of the original scheme. It was never intended, nor wished, that the Canadas should be subdued. Look at your officers; look at your soldiers, the clippings and parings, and refuse of humanity. Was it ever expected that these miserable beings would make conquests? Ye would as soon expect an army of caterpillars to mow down your forests. What is the peace of Europe to your Rulers? Should the English now be at liberty to send all her armies, and all her ships to America, and in one day burn every city from Maine to Georgia, your condescending Rulers would play on their harps, while they gazed at the tremendous conflagration. They would make this a new argument to carry on the war with new alacrity.
No peace will ever be made, till the people say, “There shall be no war.” If the rich men continue to furnish money, the miseries of war will continue till the mountains are melted with blood; till every field of America is white with the bones of the people. 5 Equally childish are your hopes from the effect of your petitions. Let the towns and the Counties and the States, continue to petition and petition, till all the paper in the land is consumed, it will not alter one vote in Congress. For years the wagons of government have groaned with your petitions, and remonstrance’s, and supplications. The tables of Congress have shuddered , under the woes of New England. Thousands and thousands, and tens of thousands of the independent merchants, and farmers, and other people, who had never before asked petition of any man, have humbly bowed before the national government, have humbly recounted their miseries, have humbly suggested the easy mode of relief, have anxiously implored relief, with a pathos, which might have moved the cold ear of Death. What has been the effect? Precisely the same, as at the court of Pharaoh. Tyrants are the same on the banks of the Nile and the Potomac, at Memphis and at Washington, in a monarchy and a republic. Petitions are the means, and the hope of children. As well may the solitary pilgrim in the desert of Sahara petition a horde of wild Arabs, not to plunder his bread and his water, as the sons of the pilgrims petition their masters of the South. As well may the shrieking vessel petition the howling winds not to drive her on the rock of the billows; as well may the terrified inhabitants of the Canadas implore the Christian barbarians of the South, not to burn their fair villages, their pleasant homes, and their temples. Happily the day of petitions has passed away.
A principal effect of all your petitions has been to convince you, that your first sufferings were light. They were a serpentine rivulet; they now are a mighty river. If ye were then vexed to madness, what will ye do in these swellings of Jordan? Non-importations, and restrictions have been added to non-importations and restrictions; open war has been added to secret machinations, and ye have approached the highest point in the tremendous climax of human despotism. Without a license, the boat of the fisherman, the more humble canoe of the hermit, may not leave the cavern of his rock, to seek his daily support.
“But these restrictions are, or will be repealed.”---Undoubtedly. Who does not know this, as certainly as that your oppressors have cunning and treachery? Were they to persevere, they, and their laws, and restrictions, would be cast to the moles and the bats. They will, therefore, suspend, and they will alter, and they will change the mode of despotism; yet all is despotism still. The very relief shows the barbarism of their system. They now tell the farmer, he may drive his team, and not be assaulted; the fisherman, that he may row his boat, and not be sunk by their artillery; the traveller, that his trunk is now free from search; the bride, that she may convey her choicest furniture to her home, it shall not be broken by the axe of their strolling officers; that all may sleep, and not be alarmed, by the midnight ghosts of administration.” What is this, but saying, “We claim the RIGHT of taking away these comforts; we justify our late barbarous laws, which subjugated you to these vexations. These shall overwhelm you again, like the tide of the ocean, when it shall be our sovereign pleasure.” 6
The government have opened their Pandora’s box, and every plague, which comes forth, is more terrible than his fellow. What may next appear, from their lake of miseries, scares the imagination to conjecture. Will martial law be proclaimed through the land? Will a conscription like that of France take place, as has been threatened? Will gangs of hired assassins, called soldiers, patrol your streets, rouse you from your midnight slumbers, burst open your doors, abuse, and wound, and scourge, and terrify your families? These things have already been done without law.
Deliver us, oh ye Rulers, of a submissive and dispirited people; deliver us from this dreadful uncertainty. Give us a law, though written in blood, though written by the finger of despotism, that we may know when to open our houses to midnight prowlers of the government, when to be silent under the point of their bayonets, when to open our bosoms to the daggers of a ferocious soldiery, that we may hear the cheering voice of tyranny, saying, “Hitherto I will come, and no further.” Though this law should command us to submit to grossest indignities, to fall down before the petty tyrants, who are the golden images of the administration, or to admit them to enter our bed chambers, like the frogs of Egypt, we shall submit; we have submitted. That we can endure despotism with as much meekness and silence, as the slaves of the grand Seignior, has been demonstrated by a long course of experiments. His subjects believe, that insult and death from his hand, is a privilege, is martyrdom. They covet the favor, as a title to immortal felicity. How many of our country now glory in the infamy and misery of aiding the government, in those very measures, which are not only destroying the country, but depriving themselves, and their families of employment, of property, and of bread! Some have thus demolished large estates. Like Sampson they have willfully pulled destruction on their own heads. We have seen an opulent merchant persevere in this mad infatuation, till he has petitioned the town; yes, till he has petitioned the town for the base privilege of a pauper. The base privilege has been granted him. Thus, like the worshippers of Moloch, the supporters of a vile administration, sacrifice their children and families on the altar of democracy. Like the widows of Hindoostan, they consume themselves; like the frantic votaries of Juggernaut, they throw themselves under the car of their political idol; they are crushed by its bloody wheels.
Vexation upon vexation, misery upon misery, infamy upon infamy, have resulted from your petitions to the government. At first they interdicted certain articles of commerce, from certain countries; then they interdicted all foreign commerce. Your petitions were like clouds wafted to Washington by every wind; like clouds they produced nothing, but a more dismal storm, a more frightful prospect. An offensive war was openly declared. Again petitions persecuted the palace; all commerce was interdicted, or every boat, and wagon, and trunk of a solitary traveller, was subjected to search and plunder. This law is now executed by brutal soldiers, sword in hand. Not only your ships, but your boats, your teams, and yourselves, as to any object of traffic, unless you will expose yourselves, to the artillery of government, are chained, as fast as the slaves of Algiers. The full viols of despotism are poured on your heads; and yet you may challenge the plodding Israelite, the stupid African, the feeble Chinese, the drowsy Turk, or the frozen exile of Siberia, to equal you in tame submission to the powers, which be.
Forgive me, forgive me, my friends, though I thus speak, it is not the language of reproach. Your obedience to law is your merit, your glory. Your patience is not the patience of fear; your gentleness is not the torpor of insensibility; your silence is not weakness; it is not cowardice, NO. Your patience is magnanimity; your silence is conscious strength; your obedience is moral habit, is religious principle, supported by religious ordinances. These principles and ordinances, though they are the scorn of your oppressors, have saved their laws from contempt, their officers from deserved violence; their whole system from insult and outrage. They, with their imported Secretaries and patriots, raised an insurrection, rather than pay a tax on their intemperance; the sons of the pilgrims pay a tax for their bread; yes, thousands and thousands yield up their bread, and their common means of support with manly silence; but there is a point; there is an hour, beyond which,------you will not bear------
II. We were to suggest some of the advantages, which resulted to Israel from these immense oppressions of their government.
Their separation from the Ancient Dominion, who had oppressed them, was the great, the grand result of their political miseries. In this event were involved blessings, too great to be described, blessings too numerous to be named. By this, they were freed from their former bondage. They bid farewell to the brick kilns and ditches of Egypt. Their merchants never again raised the walls of her cities, nor grew dizzy on the top of their towering pyramids. But here for once the parallel fails. The people of New England cannot separate themselves from the country of their oppressors. The Atlantic will not open us a passage; no Canaan flows with milk and honey for us. If we leave our fields, and towns, and temples, looking to the west, though no Anakims appear on the mountains, nor are their cities walled up to heave, nor have we heard the fame of their valor; yet do we not behold the sons of violence and rapine? In their neighborly quarrels, are not “their hair and beard clotted stiff with gore,” Do you not hear their dismal howlings for blood, more blood? Will the sons of New-England give up their traffic, and their homes, to dwell with the ferocious hordes of Kentucky and the West. NO. Here we must trample on the mandates of despotism; or here we must remain slaves forever. But, I may specify a few happy effects of Israel’s sufferings. Possibly some future Columbus, on a voyage of political discovery, may devise some means of making our miseries produce permanent blessings. Some political galvanism, yet to be discovered, may heal the infectious pestilence, which is wasting the vitals of the Commonwealth.
1. The oppressions of Israel introduced a better government, better adapted to their character.
They had endured a perpetual conflict with their superiors in power. Their collision of interests had become intolerable to the sons of Jacob. What gave wealth and ease to their oppressors, ruined them. These sections of the community had been like two dark and furious clouds, ascending the hemisphere. In their union, they disgorge their thunders, and shake the world; but Israel was the sufferer, the tributary, a mere attendant, bearing the burdens of the government, while denied the blessings. Her sons no longer sailed on the great sea, nor on the Red Sea; but were deafened by the eternal rattle of her dismal manufactures. These measures of government were as fatal to the prosperity of Israel, as were the ten plagues to Egypt. Israel had submitted to the unlimited control of Pharaoh, a proud infidel, a despiser of religion, a profane scoffer at divine things. He neither knew, nor cared whether there were one God, or twenty Gods; but when Israel separated, Jehovah became their Legislator and King. They had been vexed and scourged by petty tyrants, tools of government; now they were under the pious guidance of Moses and Aaron. “Their nobles were from themselves, and their governors proceeded from the midst of them.” They had been the creatures, and tools, and engines of a government, in confederacy against God and his cause; they now combined all their power and resources to exalt their Savior; They persevered in the great design, till they had passed the wilderness of Arabia; till they had crossed the channel of the Jordan; till they had subdued their enemies; till they had reared the temple on mount Zion; till their millions had covered the hills of Canaan; till their laws, their customs, and their religion, were established from the banks of Euphrates to the river of Egypt. Such were the fruits of their miseries and vexations in Egypt. It was necessary, that they should sigh under the rod of oppression, to wake them from their political lethargy, to dispel their prejudices in favor of the union, under which their fathers had enjoyed repose and prosperity, to provoke them to seek a better government; to inflame them to noble darings, in bursting the bonds of oppression; in dissolving their connection with the merciless slave holders of the country. Well might they sing; “Partial evil is universal good.” But alas, we have no Moses to stretch his rod over the sea.****No Lebanon, nor Carmel, nor Zion, invites us across the deep.***
2. Another immense advantage, to Israel from dissolving their union with Egypt, was an escape from the fatal contagion of infidel examples.
Though the body of the Israelites might have but little connection with the body of the Egyptians, still there must have been a constant intercourse, dangerous to all, and fatal to many. The nature of the case, and subsequent events, in their zeal for Egyptian idolatry, demonstrate all this. Though, not as judges, and legislators, and advocates, many persons must have been at the court of Pharaoh, if it were only to bear the sighs and tears of the people, before the throne of their tyrant. Here they must witness a thousand instances of impiety; they must see the first man in the nation neglect all the forms of religion. They must be tempted with bribes, and a thousand nameless enchantments of an opulent court. Returning home, these men would bring pestilence and death to the tribes of Israel. Some of the most unprincipled and profligate supporters of the administration would be appointed collectors of the revenue. These would poison the country with the spirit and vices of infidelity.-----Many of the laws breathed oppression, and provoked to crimes. By these and other means, wicked examples were greatly multiplied. Roused by the vexations, they endured, their chains fell off, and they escaped this danger of irreligious examples; they separated themselves from this land of mischief and crimes.
Though it is a law of your nature, that the general spirit of the community be transmitted to the distant members; though distinguished individuals, diffuse their spirit, however base, in the community around them, I certainly do not present the fact as matter of information, that a black cloud of infidelity hangs over the south. It cannot be criminal in one to mention what is publicly known to all. If the late President, the sage of Monticello, proud of his infidelity, has employed Printers to publish his contempt for the writings of Moses; if he has pronounced the universal deluge an impossibility; if his successor has given the whole nation every possible reason, except his public avowal, to believe that his deism is, as fixed as the ice of the poles; if his profanations of the Sabbath, if his common, his habitual, his notorious neglect of public worship, are, as complete evidence, as the most candid confessions, that he has no part nor lot in Him, who was crucified on Calvary, and rose from the tomb of Joseph, is it strange, that a swarm of scoffing infidels should darken the country, where these exalted personages reside? The approach of that region to paganism may be inferred from the riot of their Sabbaths, from their falling temples, the small numbers of their churches, and the smaller number of their Pastors. Do you not fear that this virulent impiety will by degrees be extended to all sections of the country, which are under the same government, and swayed by the fatal policy of the same men?
Those, who are in the least acquainted with history, sacred or profane, well know, that the irreligious character of Rulers, like the atmosphere of Java, carries poison and death through the land.
Here again you may envy the privilege of Israel, and mourn that no land of Canaan has been promised to your ancestors. You cannot separate from that mass of corruption, which would poison the atmosphere of Paradise; you must in obstinate despair bow your necks to the yoke, and with your African brethren drag the chains of Virginia despotism, unless you discover some other mode of escape.
3. Israel’s woes in Egypt terminated in giving them the fruit of their own labors. This was a powerful motive for them to dissolve their connection with the Ancient Dominion. Though their fathers had found their union with Egypt pleasant and profitable; though they had been the most opulent section in Egypt; yet since the change of the administration, their schemes had been reversed; their employments changed; their prosperity destroyed; their vexations increased, beyond all sufferance. They were tortured to madness, in seeing the fruit of their labors torn from them, to support a profligate administration. Instead of laying up corn, and silver, and gold, as once they did, they were no longer their own masters. With the money, which they earned, they were not permitted to pay their own debts; but the debts of the ancient dominion. After they had paid the debts of others, they were still in debt themselves. If they paid money, sufficient to build navies, and construct roads, and other great works, these were not for themselves; but for their lordly tyrants, or the money was wasted by bankrupt officers, before it reached the treasury, and often devoted to projects of folly and mischief. If they were compelled to pay taxes, to build forts and support armies, neither the forts, nor the armies were for their defense. They became discouraged; they were perplexed. Moses and others exhorted them not to despair, and assured them that one mode of relief would prove effectual. Timid, trembling, alarmed, they hardly dared to make the experiment. Finally; they dissolved the union; they marched; the Sea opened; Jordan stopped his current; Canaan received their triumphant banners; the trees of the field clapped their hands; the hills broke forth into songs of joy; they feasted on the fruit of their own labors. Such success awaits a resolute and pious people.
Is there any thing? Whereof it may be said “See, this is new? It hath been already of old time. Say then, ye who are best acquainted with the state of the country, is a course of abominable oppression, not unlike that of Egypt, bearing down New-England, and tearing from her mouth the fruits of her own labors? In the Southern States, are costly roads made? Are post offices supported? Are fortifications erected? Are armies paid? Are princely salaries enjoyed? Are palaces reared in royal splendor, from monies, chiefly paid in these commercial States?
Enquire, examine whether of the national expenditure for twenty years, the proportion of Virginia, according to her population and representation in Congress, be not more than thirty one millions, while she actually paid only thirteen millions, exonerating herself at once of eighteen millions. On the other hand, the proportion of this Commonwealth was twenty millions; but such were the taxes on your laborious industry, that instead of 20, you actually paid more than forty millions. 7 Again in the year 1791, the proportion of the public debt, belonging to Virginia was nearly eleven millions. The income of her revenue since that time, so far from paying any part of the principal would have fallen short of discharging the interest, by almost thirteen millions; but by sharing the revenue from your labors and dangers, all this interest has been paid for her, with nearly half her principal, making a profit to her of eighteen millions. Massachusetts has sacrificed these immense portions of her labors, for the privilege of belonging to the UNION; for the privilege of embargoes, and war, and all the privations and miseries, which she has endured. Had Massachusetts only received the fruit of her own toils, her fortifications and other means of defense might have been rendered formidable; and she might have built from twenty to thirty ships of the line. What a glorious union for Virginia! You have saved her from bankruptcy; you have built her fortifications, maintained her armies, paid her expences of government. Have you learned to sympathize with her imported slaves? Your labors go into the same purse; you virtually support the same masters; you generously lend your help to those miserable beings, who blacken their fields; you help them in paying for those luxuries, those costly mansions; those splendid equipages, and those prancing chariots, which you never saw. Is not all this right? You are healthy and vigorous; they are feeble and delicate. You are poor, or in moderate circumstances; they are rich in lands and slaves. You are compelled to labor hard, to submit to frugality, and endure a thousand privations; they move in splendor, and riot in voluptuous pleasures. You toil in a cold, and barren country; they enjoy a delicious climate, and a richer soil. Is it not pleasant to obey such lords, to minister to the pleasures of such a happy race? What a blessing is a Union with such delightful masters! No wonder, if every man in New-England preaches in favor of the Union! Resume your labors then; to pay their expences, hew down your forests; drag your masts from the snowy mountains; launch into the ocean; buffet the storms……………. “Is the preacher distracted? If a spy of government be present, we may all be accused of treason.” If you pass yonder Cape, you may probably never return; the boats of government are more fatal than all the cruisers of the ocean.
The Israelites were compelled not only to labor; but to labor, as their masters commanded, in mortar and manufactures; so must you. Go not then to the water’s edge; go not to the East; go not to the West; go not to the North; this is “towards the enemy.” Hasten, hasten, home; purchase you a wheel, a distaff, and a spindle, and wool, and flax, and spin with thy maidens. If death be more desirable; then follow the banner of the tremendous Dearborn; force your way through the forest to the Canadas; AND THERE DIE, as ten thousands have before thee, to feed the wolves of the north. Whether your vexations, are more or less intolerable, than those of Israel, ye are able to judge.
They became weary of yielding the fruit of their labors to pamper their splendid Tyrants. They left their political woes; they separated. Where is our Moses; Where is the rod of his miracles? Where is Aaron? Alas! No voice from the burning bush has directed them here. Bow then to the publicans of government, and say to the humble African, “Thou art my brother.”
4. The woes of Israel, and her subsequent separation from Egypt, relieved them from being involved in her judgments.
To escape the judgments, which are decidedly coming on a wicked nation is a mighty deliverance. Individuals may escape their demerits; communities cannot; communities do not exist in a future state. Accordingly those communities, which are peculiarly wicked, are punished as such; the members of such a body politic, though relatively innocent, are at least partially involved in their punishment.
Lot suffered the loss of his house, his goods, his cattle, and a part of his family in the fire of Sodom. Noah and his family, merely from living in the same world, with a wicked generation, though not included in the most dreadful part of the sentence, endured undescribable distresses. Giving up his former pursuits, laboriously engaging in the building of the ark, anticipating the destruction of his house, his fields, and the world, what must have been the anguish of his spirit. Collecting his household, at the door of the ark; seeing the dark clouds arise; the hemisphere wrapped in darkness; the lightening blazing; the thunders rolling, how dreadful the scene. As the waters rise, the ark floats along the vale. As the waters rise, his neighbors ascend the higher ground; they hail the lordly ark; they implore relief; they entreat; they beseech the patriarch to receive them on board; they plead and weep; they stretch forth their hands, when their voices are lost in the howlings of the storm. The door is shut, and there is no room. Who can imagine the distress of the Preacher, in his last words to his perishing neighbors. Confined a whole year in the dismal mansion with fowls and beasts, driven at the mercy of the winds, over the towering billows of the world; no friendly port in view, no friendly sail to be spoken, totally uncertain on what mountains top he might strike, on what rock he might dash, must it not require all his faith in God, to calm his own fears, to soothe the terrors of his afflicted family? Such were the evils of being connected with an impious people. Israel had by a series of miracles escaped the judgments of Egypt; but they could not expect miracles always to be performed for their security. They, therefore, separated; they burst their chains, and escaped the judgments, which were filling the land with horror.
What is the moral aspect of our nation? Has not New-England, as much to apprehend, as the sons of Jacob had? But no child has been taken from the river to lead us through the sea: yet are not a million slaves, a million “souls of men” bought and sold in the markets of the south? Are not the tears and miseries of a million souls daily crying to the God of justice to hasten the day of retribution? Will they cry in vain? Are the same people unitedly supporting the Antichristian power of Europe? Are they fighting her battles, and must they receive her plagues? Must not those States, which remain united with them, whatever may be their individual character, share in their punishments? When the day of retribution comes, and come it will, the whole community, however extensive, just bend before its terrors. If God shall send the sword, her crimson terrors will not be arrested on thy borders; but echo from thy hills, and reverberate across thy valleys. Should the angel of pestilence be commissioned, he would not only visit the south, but the North; lover and friend would be put far from thee. Should Famine say, “Here am I; send me;” the pale messenger would blast the fruits of thy grounds, snatch the bread from thy mouth: the morsel from the little hands of thy sons, thy daughters. If judgments are coming on the nation; if the sea does not open thee a path, where, how, in what manner will you seek relief? No Moses---no Canaan---no separation. Finally:
To conclude the subject, we discover the malignant nature of American democracy. Democracy, is the Author of all the Egyptian misery and mischief, endured in the land. Our political sufferings are entirely different from those of other nations. In other quarters of the globe, tyrants entrench themselves, behind the shields of their standing armies. But here the people themselves produce their own calamities, defend their own tyrants. They intrigue, they vote, they petition, for the continuance of their embarrassments, and their poverty, and their distresses. Yes, when their clamors and their votes are not sufficient, and when the sober part of the country send their petitions, and spread their grievances, before the thrones of their Masters, the men of democracy come forward with counter petitions, and beseech, and implore the government not to relieve the sufferings of the country, not to restore the nation to its former affluence and prosperity. They pledge ‘their sacred honor’ and lives to support the most baleful measures. These are the men, who forge the chains for themselves and their country. Were a fair statement of these facts made in a distant country, it would be considered an irony, a satire, a burlesque on humanity. But when a thousand Gazettes, and a million votes have confirmed all this, what must be the astonishment. The relation is believed, merely, because it is impossible to disbelieve. When Israel were sighing under their hard bondage, and Moses and his adherents were constantly making application for relief, what would have been thought, had an unprincipled, savage party been plying Pharaoh with counter petitions, beseeching him not to furnish straw, entreating him not to lessen the tax of brick, and pledging their infamous honors to support his abominable measures? Precisely such is the temper of American “republicans,” so called. A new language must be invented, before we attempt to express the baseness of their conduct, or describe the rottenness of their hearts. Has such a barbarous infatuation ever prevailed before? Divines had described a dreadful depravity among the sons of Adam; but divines had not described, nor conceived such a depravity. Where could they have found facts to support such a theory? Robbers and banditti have not destroyed themselves, to crush their associates; tigers do not mangle their own flesh; nor do fallen spirits with all their malice towards their companions petition for the increase, or continuance of their torments. Where is the man, forging chains for himself and posterity? Him have I offended.
2. God governs the nations for great and good designs. He controlled the affairs of Egypt, the affairs of Israel. Egypt was infatuated by her power and prosperity to crush the Israelites, and to drive them to a separation. The Israelites by those oppressions were roused to independence, and prepared for the highest prosperity: the best country, and the best civil polity in the world. The fame of their wisdom, their skill in the sciences, and their immense traffic, travelled through the world. Awed by the valor of their legions, and the impetuosity of their cavalry, distant tribes sued for peace, and the noise of battle ceased. Their merchants caught the gales of remotest seas, and silver was abundant in Jerusalem, as the stones of the hills. Princes came from the ends of the earth to admire the splendor of the court, and the felicity of the subjects. God continues to raise up other Pharaohs; their hearts are hardened against reason, and persuasion, and sound policy; and though it is not in their heart, neither do they think so; yet we know that the morn of light and glory will burst from this political darkness. Therefore,
3. Let us bear our public calamities with submission to the will of heaven.
God will bring good from every evil. The furnaces of Egypt lighted Israel to the land of Canaan.
Though a terrific cloud hangs over our land; though it may drown your fields in blood; God may be about to accomplish a glorious purpose. The book of providence is a sealed volume; nor may the wisest angel open the mysterious leaves. When the days of Israel were bitterness, and their nights terror, did they believe that those evils would result in their emancipation from an abandoned government? Yet, so it was; and perhaps these were the only means, that could have roused that people, to assume their independence. What dismal reflections must have torn the bosom of Pharaoh, surveying the miseries, which he had occasioned. “I have ruined my kingdom; I have destroyed myself.” What must be the reflections of our exalted President, in the silence of retirement? “While I have made myself great, I have ruined my country. Her morals, her affluence, her cheerfulness, are gone. To feed my friends, I have kindled the fires of war. Burning villages, and dying soldiers, are the monuments of my glory. Ten thousand wretches in the agonies of death have poured their curses on my name. I am steeped in blood. History will hold me up to the execration of the world; not a triumphant murderer, like Pizarro or Attila, but like Pharaoh or Absalom, a mere blunderer in the science of blood. Had I loved my country, as I love my office, I should not have been the scorn of the universe.”
We live, my brethren, in a most eventful period. The whole Christian world are standing with their swords drawn. Our country, hungry for blood, is ambitious of making a figure in this boundless scene of destruction; she is trying, and striving, and panting, to lift a sword; but as the Hebrews, waging an offensive war against the Amalekites, when the Lord was not with them, were vanquished and driven back with shame; so are our armies led into captivity, and vanquished, and driven back.
Should the navies and armies of Britain invade New-England, could the general Government defend you one day? Would not your beautiful towns vanish in a blaze? Could the standing army prevent an invading foe from marching where they please? The armies of government are “as a thread of tow, when it toucheth the fire;” New-England, if invaded, would be compelled to defend herself. Do you not then owe it to yourselves, owe it to your children, and owe it to your God, to make peace for yourselves? Will you rush to the combat, when you dare not ask the blessing of heaven? Will you crimson your fields with the blood of your sons, merely because your Rulers have commenced the contest, merely because they find their advantage in your miseries? Will you perish to please your oppressors? Where then are you ministers of peace? Although the sword of the foe has not drunk the blood of the valiant; nor have the sons of the mighty been led into captivity; although the legions, who move to this iniquitous war, will find no bard to make them renowned in their day, to raise the song of mourning; nor to relate their deeds to other times; although for the perpetual disasters of the camp, “no sighs arise with the beams of the east; no tears descend with the drops of the night;” yet is this war most calamitous. It calls for shame and pious sorrow; it calls for supplication and grief of soul, that Heaven in anger should punish us with such men of blood, to rule the nation. Passing events seem to indicate that God intends to purify the earth, not with a flood of water; but a deluge of blood. Blessed are they, who understand the signs of the times. He that taketh the sword shall perish with the sword. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity. He that killeth with the sword, must be killed by the sword. Those, who engage in a murderous, offensive war, shall have blood to drink, for they are worthy. They have had blood to drink. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, and of the sea, for the devil is come down to you, having great wrath; because he knoweth, that he hath, but a short time.
The Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth. The earth shall no more cover her slain. The stars are falling; the moon is blood; He taketh the sun in his wrath, and hideth him in his clouds. The great day of his wrath is come, and who will be able to stand?
1. For an explanation, see the comment in Henry, Scott, or Clark, &c. on Exod. 12, 40. (Return)
2. Mr. Whiston. (Return)
3. Dr. A. Clark. (Return)
4. Dr. Robertson. (Return)
5. Probably the country has distinctly pronounced. “Peace shall be made;” i.e. the rich have refused to trust the government. This class of men may have peace when they please. An army cannot breathe a week without their aid. (Return)
6. Accordingly Mr. Madison’s paper already boasts of “the rigor” with which the law has been executed, “as an assurance” “of complete effect” should there “be a resuscitation of this system.” Thus our lords talk concerning the resurrection of the goblin, before she is buried or even dead. A more puerile spirit was never manifested than the exultations, because the late afflictive system is suspended. A measure of dire necessity, which tortures every nerve of the rulers. As well might the martyrs of the Inquisition sing hosanna to their tormentors in the moments of respite from the rack or burning stake. (Return)
7. See Learned Essays of Calculator in the Columbian Centinel. (Return)