This election sermon was preached by Rev. William Lyman in Hartford, CT on May 8, 1806.
THE HAPPY NATION.
PREACHED AT THE
MAY 8TH, 1806.
BY WILLIAM LYMAN, A.M.
Pastor of a Church in East-Haddam.
At a GENERAL ASSEMBLY of the State of CONNECTICUT, holden at Hartford, on the secont Thursday of May, A.D. 1806 —
Ordered, that the Honorable Stephen Titus Hosmer and the Epaphroditus Champion, Esquires, present the thanks of this Assembly to the Reverend WILLIAM LYMAN, for his Sermon preached at the General Election, on the eighth day of May instant, and request a copy there of, that it may be printed.
A true copy of record,
Samuel Wyllys, Secretary.
JEREMIAH XXXI. 23.
The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness.
Happiness, the great end of institutions and pursuits among men, though long and eagerly sought, hath never been fully attained in this world. The honor, security and welfare of nations have been favorite themes of discussion and panegyric, through many succeeding generations. The credulous part of mankind hath been charmed with descriptions of a terrestrial paradise; and the most enchanting images of union, peace and joy have glowed in the breasts of visionary patriots and moralists. The reign of sin and misery, anarchy and confusion, despotism and slavery, hath, in imagination, been extirpated, and this earth converted into the abode of beatified mortals, tasting all the pleasures of freedom, independence and social enjoyment. This ideal happiness, however, which hath been the subject of frequent and confident prediction, hath been expected from no higher source than intellectual improvements and civil refinements. An increase of knowledge, improvement of manners, and acquaintance with the arts of self government have been represented as an effectual antidote to the poison of discord, and a sovereign preventative of the various disorders which disturb the peace and mar the happiness of society. Such addresses to the pride, the vanity and credulity of human nature have never been verified in experience. The phantom they have exhibited to view, hath dissipated in the fumes of practical error; and the toilsome pursuers, after the research of ages, are as remote from the professed object as when these illusive dreams and idle speculations first began. The advocates, however, thought long and often disappointed, have gathered new courage from every new revolution in the state of human affairs, and, with a confidence becoming only the plainest and best of causes, have published again and again their exploded systems. The virtue, the integrity and the piety of a people, which alone can open the portals of such a paradise, and secure the blessings of this golden age, they have retreated with too much neglect. In consequence of this, their building, when reared and adorned with the most beautiful colorings of the imagination, is only “the baseless fabric of a vision.”
The prophet, who recorded the words of my text, guided by the spirit of unerring wisdom and truth, hath advanced a more correct and pract6ical theory – a theory built on the surest basis, and which asks only the privilege of experiment to prove its superiority to all others.
This system is founded in righteousness and moral purity; the two great pillars which support the throne and government of Jehovah.
On this momentous and auspicious occasion, I shall briefly canvass the doctrine of the prophet, with an appropriate reference to that privileged community, at the head of which we, this day, see the reverent rulers of our native and beloved State.
I look around on the magistrates and representatives of one of the freest and most enlightened States under heaven, and, with emotions of heartfelt desire and hope, say to the whole body politic, of which they are the head, “The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness.”
Since there is no happiness without the blessing of God and no peculiar blessing of God on a people who do not fall under the description here given, I shall advance this, as the doctrinal sentiment of the text, viz.
JUSTICE and HOLINESS are the foundation of national and individual happiness and glory.
This proposition will open the way for a discussion, interesting to us both as individuals as members of community. Happy would it be if this might be conducted in a manner edifying and convincing to all.
Two things will come into view as descriptive of a happy people. They must be righteous: and they must be holy. — The first of these I shall consider in relation to the civil, and the second in relation to the religious state of a people. According to this construction and arrangement, it will be natural,
I. To take a view of them under the notion of an “habitation of justice.” – This denotes their uniform and inviolable regard to equity, in all their concerns. In certain respects, and to a certain degree, they may be righteous and yet not deserve to be designated as the people with whom is the stated abode or habitation of justice. To arrive at the honor of this ennobling distinction, several things are requisite.
I. The acknowledged principles of government must have equal respect to the rights of all.
Whether the instrument which professes to recognize this sentiment be termed a covenant, a bill of rights, or a constitution is immaterial. It will be understood to import that consent which is given, by the several members of society, to the rules and maxims by which they have chosen to be regulated in their public concerns. If this agreement be grounded on the idea of unnatural distinctions and hereditary privileges, it is, in the form and structure of it opposed to the original rights of men; and presents, at the outset, a formidable barrier to the admission of justice. The constitution must admit no doctrine of separate and exclusive rights, in consistent with the rights of a free community, formed on the sure and broad basis of impartial equity. Far be it from me to decide what particular form of government may be adopted. The people, surely, have a right to choose and act for themselves. All legitimate power originates from this source; and that government which owes its existence to any other principle, is nothing less than usurpation and oppression. – The people must form their system of government and determine its mode of operation.
In a representative and popular government, the danger principally consists in having the elective franchise corrupted, and people either deluded or too remiss in exercising and maintaining their rights as freemen. Where the source of power is uncontaminated with bribery or corruption, and people act faithfully as guardians of their privileges, there is little reason to fear any dangerous encroachments from the unprincipled and ambitious. So far as power, by mutual agreement, is delegated to particular men, and they are called to act as the organs of the public will, it ought ever to be considered that the people, and not the rulers simply, are acting. For men to oppose themselves. And to attempt the alteration or obstruction of it, except in a legal and constitutional mode, is to commit acts of needless violence on their own doings, and fight against their own peace and happiness. The representatives and rulers of a free people are the people by their agents; and the rule by which they are to proceed is to consult and promote the public weal, having a constant regard to the rights of the several individuals. This is conductive to the support of justice and tends to serve her residence among a people. It is a principle which must not be abandoned in a free government, that the people are active in constitution their rulers. This principle, I conceive, is recognized in the word of God. See the account of Jephthah’s elevation recorded in the book of Judges xi. 11. “Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them.” This agency of the people, in so important a case, shows a divine regard for the rights of man, and furnishes an example of which justice requires a scrupulous imitations. Without enumerating or defining these rights, I shall proceed to observe,
2. That a government once established and on such a bias, should be well administered.
In vain is a theory of the wisest and best system of civil policy, without a corresponding operation of its principles; tending to promote the end of its institution. Here several ideas will come into view particularly, that the laws enacted should be founded in justice, and in the spirit of the constitution. They should have also a steady, faithful and uniform execution: to effect which it is necessary that those entrusted with the management of public concerns should be upright and faithful men. Under such circumstances, there is reason to hope that the claims of justice will be satisfied, and her abode among a people rendered stable and permanent. If either bad laws are framed, or they be badly executed, or, the management of them be committed to corrupt, unprincipled and wicked men, the commonwealth is in danger, and must suffer material injury. A sense of justice should be admitted into all councils and legislative assemblies: it should preside in all courts, and guide the hand which wields the executive sword. Good and wholesome laws, which shall not infringe upon the rights of any; and which shall secure equally to all the enjoyment of life, liberty and the means of happiness, should constitute the code adopted. The vast variety of circumstances, however, which is continually rising to view, and which may contribute, unequally to affect the local interests of men, calls for amendments, alterations and additions. This accommodation, so far as is practicable, justice requires. That imperfection, which attends all human affairs, forbids the expectation, either that all will be satisfied, or that all can have equal and perfect justice done them, at all times; yet this should be the design and tendency of every law.
But, admitting that the laws are good, there is another thing equally essential, and which must not be overlooked; I mean, a faithful and impartial execution of them. As the laws are designed for all, so the executive direction of them should be pointed alike to all. No partialities – no oppression – no violence should be practiced or known. The rude and vile disturbers of order, virtue and peace should be arraigned at the tribunals of public justice, and there be made to tremble before the insulted majesty of the laws. Flagrant offenders must have an exemplary punishment. On the other hand, the rights of the inoffensive, who commit no acts of hostility against the government or the subjects of itk and who maintain a regular course of life, should be secured; and the hand of extortion, rapine and cruelty should be palsied by 6the energetic interposition of the laws. In this way the magistrate and the executive officer become subservient to this double purpose of being a terror in the punishment of evil doers and for the praise of them that do well. – Such a state of things in society almost necessarily implies, that the rulers themselves are men of integrity and fidelity.
It is hardly to be expected that a good government, with good laws and well executed, will continue such and be of lasting utility in the hands of men whose principles and practice are constantly and powerfully at war with their professions; and whose minds, in the moral structure of them, are not congenial with such a state of society. That a government be respected and obeyed it is highly needful, among a free people, that it be honored by those who administer it. It is not sufficient that they prescribe to others the line of conduct they are to pursue, and constrain obedience in those they govern. There must be in them an exemplary deportment, corresponding with the rules they establish. Hence good rulers are ever characterized in the word of God as men distinguished for sobriety, integrity and uniformity of life, no less than for wisdom and knowledge. David, with peculiar energy and precision, expresseth the mind of God on this subject, 2 Sam. xxiii. 3. “The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, he that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” — it will be noticed that in the expression here used there is conveyed an idea of obligation; and this obligation as extending not only to the conduct, but to the real character and motives of the ruler — He must be just, as well as do justice; and he must be actuated by a virtuous principle, “ruling in the fear of God.”
David himself is described as such a ruler. God expressly says “I have found David, a man after mine own heart.” The history of his official conduct is in these honorable terms (Psalm lxxviii. 72.) “So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart: and guided them by skillfulness of his hands.” ( 2 Sam. viii. 15.) “And David reigned over all Israel, and David executed justice and judgment unto all his people.” Such is the character and conduct of a good ruler: and, on this ground, those who have aspired at civil office and power have not failed, in prosecuting their design, to engage that they would act such a part.
The ambitious, enterprising and seditious Absalom professed to seek for authority on no other footing. “Oh, says he, that I were made judge in the land! That every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me and I would do him justice!” He felt the necessity of assuming such a character, and adopting such a course. And those must be corrupt times indeed, when no such qualification is required in an officer of government and his political sentiment are regarded, rather than his veneration for the principles of equity.
Rules, to be qualified for their station are represented as men who “fear God and hate covetousness.” — When such men bear sway, and guide the wheels of government, we may hope for an administration which will effectually secure the blessings guaranteed by the principles on which the government is founded. In these happy times “judgment shall run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”
Thus we see that by enacting good and wholesome laws, - executing them in a diligent and faithful manner, - and entrusting the management of public concerns with men, who both fear God and regard man, there is afforded to a people the best security for a wise and righteous administration of government : and thus may they place themselves under that fortress of national dignity and happiness, “the habitation of justice.” — But
3. To complete the parts of this picture, I add that the people, in their respective stations and various transactions, must be actuated by the same principles, and perform their duty with uprightness and fidelity.
Useless, in a great measure, would be government and laws, however excellent, without a submission and acquiescence on the part of the people. The gospel enjoins upon men submission to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake, while they lead peaceable and quiet lives in all godliness and honesty. They must submit to the laws and obey magistrates; otherwise confusion and uproar, anarchy and wretchedness will ensure – the wheels of government will be clogged – needful subordination will cease, and the horrors of the most dismal picture of human woe will be presented, when every man does that which is right in his own eyes. — Not only should the seats of justice be free from the stains of corruption and bribery — not only should the professional advocates of justice be uncontaminated with the evil of loving and grasping “the wages of unrighteousness” — not only should those in public life be just and upright men, but the body of the people should merit the same description.
Calumnty, injustice and oppression, of every kind and in every degree, should be avoided, and the people of every grade, by fulfilling their contracts and yelling, implicitly, to the claims of justice would demean themselves as those worthy and wholesome members of society, who industriously seek the things which make for peace. — When such is the tenor of the people’s conduct, and they are faithful to “render to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor,” and make it their endeavor to owe no man anything but to love on another, then may we have a vision of those peculiarly happy times described by the prophet Isiah, when he says (Isa. lx. 21) “Thy people shall be all righteous.” — Enough, perhaps, has now been said to show what is comprehended under the notion of the “habitation of justice;” and what is needful to entitle a people to his honorable appellation. This is the nation or community where justice has her fixed abode. When driven out as an exile from all the courts of usurpation and tyranny under heaven – when prohibited the seats of nobles and the palaces of monarchs, here she finds a friendly asylum – here is her chosen, delightful and permanent “habitation.”
II. I am now to consider, under the second general branch of discourse, that still higher article of description, given in these words “mountain of holiness”
We have hitherto contemplated the character and state of a people in their civil capacity, as cherishing and maintaining the cause of justice; we are now to enliven and elevate the scene by giving a view of their religious state.
The “mountain of holiness” denotes an high state of religious experience, — an enlarged portion of spiritual attainments, and bespeaks a people who are formed in an eminent degree to shew forth the divine praise.
I. It will be worthy of primary attention to consider, that they are not atheistical in their sentiments; but believe in the existence, and acknowledge the supremacy of the one only living and true God. — This involves an idea also of belief in the word of God. For whatever credit deists may arrogate to themselves, for admitting a God into their system, yet it is an idle pretence that they believe in such a God as the scriptures describe. For to admit the existence of such a God, and ascribe to him greatness, dominion and power, is to come within the precincts of the Christian system : and it is, in substance, to own a truth long embraced by the saints, and in support of which we earnestly plead, that the scriptures are “given by inspiration of God.”
That the idea of a God may be admitted and yet the authority of the scriptures rejected, will not be controverted; but the God acknowledged in this case is one widely different from him who brightness into view in the sacred oracles. That belief in this being, which clothes him with the ensigns of independent sovereignty, and recognizes the perfections of his nature; which begets a reverence for his word and submission to his will, is supposed in the characteristic traits of a holy people.
2. Such a people support and honor divine institutions, their belief is not idle and inactive speculation; but an inwrought and operative principle. — Those who believe in the existence of such a God as the scriptures reveal, and are reconciled to the methods of his grace, are disposed to worship him, according to the directions of his word. — Hence they approve of his ordinances, and prize the privileges of his gospel. With them his day, hi word and his worship are in high estimation not aspiring to be wise above what is written, nor undervaluing the constitution of heaven, they venerate the Christian ministry and the appointed means of grace for this reason they willingly take part in supporting an evangelical ministration of the word, and honor this institution by a public and uniform attendance upon it.
Neither sloth, indolence nor disgust keeps them from the stated abodes of divine mercy. In a joyful concourse they meet within the gates of Zion, and pour forth their souls in devotional exercises, while they harmoniously join to give thanks to God at the remembrance of his holiness. Scarcely an individual is to be found who cannot adopt this language of the Psalmist, “I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God; with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day.” — In this business, rulers and subjects are happily agreed; and, among them, there is conspicuous a governing sense of divine things.
They have communion with their Lord in sacraments, — they look to him habitually in the ordinance of prayer, and they unite to put honor upon him who came to redeem their precious souls, and purify them unto himself as a peculiar people, zealous of good works. This leads me to observe,
3. That they cultivate an acquaintance with the experimental parts of religion. — Among them there exists no doubt respecting the inward and saving work of the spirit. Their hopes are in unison with that experience of saints which inclines them to say “Not by works of righteousness, which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the holy Ghost.” — They ascribe all their hopes and all their comforts to the sovereign and effectual grace of God, not relying upon their own doings, but upon the merits of him who died to atone for their transgressions, and whose blood cleanseth from all sin. Being wrought into his spirit, and conformed to his image, they derive vital energy and support from him, by the continual actings of a vigorous faith; so that because he lives, they live also. This renders them, in a peculiar sense, the heritage of the Lord; and like a holy or consecrated thing, they belong to him of whom its is characteristic that he “saves his people from their sins.”
There is a further idea which may be gathered from the expression used in the text. Therefore,
4. Those we are describing are a people who have risen to high attainments in the art of holy living, and distinguished themselves for their zeal and firmness in the Christian cause.
They are not ashamed of the doctrine nor of the cross of Christ. They openly and boldly espouse the interests of his truth and kingdom. For him they plead, and to his service they are devoted. With fortitude, resolution and unabating fervency, they persevere in the ways of well-doing, and become eminent for their piety. Their light shines before men, and others see their good works. This conduces to the glory of their heavenly father, and to their own abundant comfort. Such marks of humility, devotion and piety are discovered in them, that others take knowledge of them that they have been with Jesus. Degrees of holiness are habitually increasing within, and the uniform tenor of their lives proves that they are going on to perfection. They ascend in their views and desires. — The glories of heaven more and more attract their souls, and they aspire after that maturity of spiritual stature to which they shall arrive in heaven. Already they feel the elevating power of hope, and the invigorating influence of a living faith. Their graces grow strong, and their attainments rise high. This comports with the idea of a mountain, denoting something which is elevated, conspicuous and stable.
The expression conveys also an idea of exuberance and richness. Mount Libanus, or the mountain of Lebanon, has been celebrated for its fertility — a part of which was uncommonly productive. In allusion to this, the mountain of holiness may denote an extraordinary growth of the plants of piety. This elevation brings to view also the notion of zeal, excited by the warm and vivifying rays of divine love, which penetrate the very bowels of this mountain, darting life and energy through every part. From the expression there further arises an idea of firmness, strength and security. A mountain which overlooks and commands at the adjacent country is a place of advantageous resort when assailed by an enemy. And it may fitly represent the protection and safety afforded to those who are in the favor and under the care of heaven. Christians, in this state, are on the pinnacle of faith, and in the fortress of almighty love. This conveys us, in our meditations, to the highest and most advantageous point on the mountain of holiness. The idea is that the church is in peculiar estimation; so that by its formidable greatness and exalted attitude it commands the veneration of all around. Faith, hope, love and zeal are carried to great perfection; the growth of Christians surpasses the ordinary measure. In them we see verified the assurance given by the prophet Daniel, “but the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.”
Having thus, very briefly, delineated the character of those presented to our view, in the language of the text, and shown I two distinct points of view, how a people in their civil and religious capacity, may answer to the metaphorical description of the prophet, I shall, without entering into a detail of particular duties, pass to consider,
III. How these things unite in conducting a people to that summit of national honor and felicity, comprised in having for their portion the blessing of the Lord.
When righteousness and holiness combine their influence, in the manner above represented; and when the civil and religious state of a people is thus refined and ennobled, this is, of itself the choicest blessing : nor, is it difficult to see how this blessing will unfold itself, in the augmentation of national security and happiness. The benefits resulting from this quarter may be traced in a few things.
In the first place, it is obvious there will be security against the mischiefs of anarchy. A government is established, which is a righteous government – the execution of them impartial, and the rulers are of a character which excites confidence and respect. Moreover, the people are free from dishonesty, fraud and every species of iniquity : that godliness which is profitable unto all things, is found predominant among rulers and subjects and the great cement of union, order and harmony, which flows from the “mountain of holiness” diffuses itself over the various branches of society, enhancing the worth, raising the dignity, and multiplying the joys of such a community. Where then is the room for discord, uproar and confusion, with their numerous train of complicated evils? The door is effectually shut against them, nor can anarchy, with her subtle engines of collision and strife, enter and perform her operations. – Besides, through the indulgence of heaven, there is afforded to each his full and equitable proportion of enjoyments. Under such a government every right, civil and sacred, is secured. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness fall in the train of protected privileges. No man wrests from his brother his property, his good name, or his inalienable rights of conscience. Each one lives in peace with all men, and cultivates that holiness of heart and life which is a bond of the sweetest union. All sit quietly under their own vines and fig trees, having none to molest them in their pursuits, or make them afraid in their possessions. They worship God agreeably to the dictates of their own consciences, and are at liberty to be as happy as their capacity and means will admit. – On them, no arm of the oppressor and no scourge of the despot is laid. The character of the government, of the rulers and of the people, guards against the encroachments of usurpation and tyrannical power. That justice which takes up her abode among such a people is vigilant to detect, and powerful to check, the ambitious projects of unprincipled demagogues. More than all this, that “mountain of holiness,” which rears its majestic head towards heaven, forms an insuperable barrier against all the insidious movements of the aspiring and restless hunters after power.
We further trace the beneficial effects of this blessing in the removal or prevention of those numerous causes of litigation and civil contest, which so much disturb the peace of society, and introduce a train of vexatious and expensive troubles. Justice and holiness drive from their boarders that group of evils which is the product of litigious and revengeful measures. Near the habitation of the one, and the mountain of the other, these have no cultivation or fostering support.
It may also be remarked that the characteristic properties of which we have spoken have influence to ennoble the sentiments, harmonize the views, refine the tempers and purify the morals of men. They add a dignity to their whole deportment, and all the movements of their souls are upon a more sublime, enlarged and elevated scale. Instead of being “wise to do evil” they “learn to do well,” and, in their respective stations, act worthily their part.
Hence the joys of anticipation become their portion, and they not only are admitted to all the pleasures of reciprocal intercourse with heaven, and draw down, on themselves, the refreshing tokens of divine favor, but they look forward with hope and an assured confidence to the regions of consummate and endless felicity.
Such are the fruits and effects of that blessing from on high, which accompanies and beatifies a moral and religious people.
Thus does the Lord smile with complacency on those whom justice and holiness unite to render the objects of his peculiar favor; and to such a pitch of glory and felicity do these illustrious properties conduct nations and individuals. – We look forward to the millennium, to realize this alluring and transporting scene, in full assurance that when the prince of peace shall sway his scepter, and become king of nations as he is king of all saints, this splendid display of an earthly paradise will open to view.
Taking into consideration these several ideas, and contemplating their connection, we learn with what property it is affirmed, that justice and holiness are the foundation of national and individual happiness and glory.
The subject we have been considering presents for our instruction and benefit several useful reflections. We learn,
I. That in the business of reforming the world and ameliorating the condition of men, religion and politics have real and important connection. They combine their influence in this noble work. No politics deserve the credit of the least approbation which are not framed in “the habitation of justice:” and no such politics are at variance with religion. – Civil government and the church have a mutual and intimate concern in refining and perfecting the state of society. Civil rule must be built on the basis of morality; nor should any measures be adopted in political arrangements which justice does not approve. But to give the finishing stroke, and raise to the highest pitch the honors of national character, there must be an assemblage of those virtues which rank under the title of holiness. Religion must be cultivated, or in vain do you look for the “blessing of the Lord which maketh rich,” in the enjoyment of peace and safety. Bold indeed must be that adventurer in political renovation, who expects the exaltation and happiness of a people independently of the blessing of heaven. If you drive religion from among a people, you banish the very essence of intellectual and moral refinement: you tear down the towering hopes of a soul “longing after immortality:” you strip society of its brightest ornament; and you present to the view of degraded man the groveling scene of a lustful paradise. Let justice guide the decisions of civil judicatories, and let holiness sanction all the measures for enlightening and reforming mankind, you have then the key to unlock the treasures of national independence, elevation and glory. “Then God’s people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” And thus will it appear to be emphatically true that “righteousness exalteth a nation.”
But when I speak of the combined influence of civil and religious means, let no one imagine that I mean to blend the duties, or intermix the concerns of political and ecclesiastical functionaries. They have their distinct offices and distinct employments harmonizing in the end, but differing in the modes and forms of operation. The glory of God and the happiness of men are the leading and principal objects to the promoted by persons of every class. The civil magistrate and the minister of Christ should keep to their respective assignments of service, without interfering or encroaching; but should mutually aid each other in their benevolent and important work. Justice and holiness should preside and govern in the proceedings of both. We infer,
2. That rulers have a work which requires vigilance and sobriety, skill and fortitude.
They are to look over the affairs of state, and take care that the commonwealth suffer no detriment, from their neglect or mismanagements. As the ministers of God for good to the people, they are to defend the rights of office, and dispense justice to all the subordinate members of society. It is, therefore, requisite they should be always at their post, and discharge faithfully the duties of their exalted station. The interests of the people are to be the subject of their consultations, and the object of their diligent pursuit. They must be vigilant to descry and faithful to perform their duty. They need, like Daniel, be frequently on their knees before God; and, like Solomon, pray for a wise and understanding heart. Feeling the weight of their public employment, and anxious that they people may not mistake their true interests, they will be ready to say, with a celebrated judge in Israel, “Moreover God forbid that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you : But I will teach you the good and the right way.” Opposition may be expected and sometimes experienced in faithfully discharging their official duties.
Restless spirits will foment difficulties. They may rise up in open rebellion, and hostility, saying, as did once daring company to Moses and Aaron, “Ye take too much upon you.” In repressing such outrage, in frowning on vice, and in punishing offenders, not only skill but prudence and resolution are requisite. The work is great, and demands peculiar activity. Accordingly it is suggested by the apostle, as a rule applicable in this case, “He that ruleth, with diligence.” While the rulers are exemplary in all moral and religious duties, it not only affords security but comfort to the whole community; so that in experience is verified that political maxim of the wise man, “when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” We gather,
3. That ministers of the gospel hold a conspicuous station in promoting the good of their fellow men, and should be laborious and unwearied in their efforts. They are to stand on the mountain of holiness, and invite all to the summit of evangelical purity. While their political fathers, in the habitation of justice, are conspiring with their counsels and endeavors to promote the temporal prosperity of men; they, on this high and salubrious mountain, are to concentrate all their exertions to subserve a still more noble purpose, in accomplishing their spiritual and eternal good. – To their care, in a special manner, is committed the ark of God and the holy service of the sanctuary. Encouraged by the fostering hand of the civil power, and much more, enflamed by the love of Jesus and the worth of souls, they are to labor for the salvation and happiness of all. The nature, tendency and issue of sin they are to describe; and warn people of t the evils attendant on injustice and wickedness, both in this world and another. They must teach them to obey magistrates and be ready for every good work.
To the ministers of justice they must leave the concerns of civil law, while they charm and activate with the beauties of holiness. Moving in their proper sphere they must endeavor to shine as lights in the world. In a word, they are to act a distinguished part in calling down the blessings of heaven on a people, and in contributing to promote their temporal and eternal welfare. While the rulers like good Hezekiah, speak comfortably to all the Levites that teach the good knowledge of the Lord, the people will be at peace, and reap the benefit of their united and assiduous exertions.
My fathers and brethren in the ministry, awakened by the solemn and affecting calls, which have been repeated the last year, in the removal of fellow-laborers by death, 1 will be excited to redoubled diligence in the service of their divine Lord and master. Knowing that shortly they must put off this tabernacle, they will lose no time in testifying the gospel of the grace of God, and watching for souls, as they who must give an account. We learn
4. That special attention is due to the pious education of our youth. I mean not only by their being supplied with the public means of grace, and the advantages of such a ministry as I have described, but by doing their being provided with suitable instructors in the various seminaries of learning. If they are not taught, in that early part of life, the rules or righteousness, sobriety and godliness, no rational expectation can be formed that they will walk in the paths of virtue and religion. So soon as they begin to deviate from the maxims of justice and holiness, they become wanderers from the only infallible road to dignity and felicity. It is an approved maxim, which an inspired writer hath advanced and which experience confirms, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” – In Vain do you look for good, wise and faithful rulers, or regular and wholesome members of society, from the schools of infidelity or the retreats of impurity. To subserve in the best manner, the interests of society, and be respectable or useful in life, persons must early be habituated to the fear of the Lord and the restraints of piety.
To secure such a blessing, a virtuous education is indispensably requisite. Not only able, but faithful conscientious and virtuous instructors should be provided. Liberal provision almost beyond a parallel, hath been made by our Legislature for the encouragement of learning. But if piety be not respect to an equal or superior degree, in these various fountains of science, the privilege we enjoy may become a snare. If inexperienced, unprincipled and immoral men are admitted as teachers into our nurseries of science, and superintend the earliest part of education, it will tend to poison the fountains of virtue and happiness. They should be men not only skilled in the rudiments of learning, but of unimpeachable character; whose principles and practice coincide with their instructions in favor of mortality and religion. Thus by imbuing the minds of our youth with virtuous principles, and habituating them to virtuous practices, our nation may grow into a habitation of peace, and rise into a mountain of dignity and joy. Let me entreat then that the public guardians of our rights would have a constant eye to these sources of our hopes and comforts. We learn,
5. How to prize the privileges we enjoy under a good and wholesome form of civil government, and how to appreciate those predictions of scripture which speak of an extensive and glorious spread of the gospel.
We live in an age of light, and in a land of liberty. – Our excellent constitution and the wise good and faithful administration of government extort praise even from the lips of enemies. Balaam, though called to curse, must lift up his voice and say “How godly are thy tents, O Jacob, and they tabernacles, O Israel.”
We have not to mourn in the plaintive language of the prophet, that “Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off, for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter;” but we glory in the blessings which result from an unobstructed course of justice. Our eyes behold the rulers of this happy land, proceeding from among ourselves; not dazzling in the splendors of royalty, but charming in the more humble garb of republicans. Our state regulations have not undergone any material change. Our judges remain as at the first, and our counsellors as at the beginning. While others are verging on the horrors of civil contest, or wreathing beneath the tortures of despotism, we are, to a good degree, free from the turmoils of faction.
It cannot, however, be denied that difference of opinion prevails, producing violent struggles for the support of opposing measures. Nor is it less apparent that degeneracy of manners marks the age in which we live. Licentiousness of sentiment and practice hath affected most classes, and an awful neglect of God and divine things abounds. Numerous and glaring are the symptoms of declension : dark and lowering are the aspects of providence. We may, however have confidence in him who “hath his way in the whirlwind in the storm.”
When we look abroad and contemplate the rage of party, the illegal contest of political opponents, and the bloody issue of disappointed ambition, in the systematized barbarities of dueling, we are constrained to weep over our degraded and incrimsoned land, saying, in the desponding language of the prophet, “How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment, righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers.” From this painful spectacle let us turn and once more view that favored part of the country in which we dwell. Notwithstanding our impieties, a good degree of order and regularity prevails. A general regard is paid to virtue and morality, among the various classes of your citizens, and we still gather comfort from the application of this prophecy, “Thou shalt be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.”
Against the wisest measures and the most salutary laws, the enemies of order and government may, however, unite an clamor. Such combinations of infuriated man must have their seasons and their course. Though success attend their exertions, they will not long enjoy the triumph.
Let them alone, and ere long, under the influence of that spirit by which they are actuated, they will run violently down the steep place of discord, and be choked in the tempestuous sea of anarchy.
But, if we desert not the “habitation of justice,” nor abandon the “mountain of holiness,” we need fear no such evil. The Lord will bless us as he hath done our forefathers; and no weapon formed against our union, peace and government, shall be able to prosper. – Those civil and religious privileges which we enjoy to an unexampled degree, let us evermore cherish; let us guard the sanctuary of our rights from the inroads of insidious foes. Our only danger lies in forsaking the God of our fathers. Let us never have occasion to deplore, in the language of the repenting Israelites, “for we have added to all our sins, this evil to ask us a king.” To avoid so fatal an evil, let us, my countrymen, be evermore on the watch-tower of independence and freedom. Sell not the birthright of your liberties for the poisonous and deadly pottage of imperial delusion and tyranny. – For comfort in the darkest times, look to the animating descriptions and prophecies with which the word of God abounds. Read attentively and learn the progress, the energy and the triumph of truth. The day is coming, in prophetic vision it is already present, when righteousness and piety, justice and holiness shall prevail. “And it shall come to pass,” saith the evangelical Isaiah, “that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.” – Jerusalem shall become a praise in the earth, and there shall be perpetuated in the reign of him who “shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” The “habitation of justice” shall eventually stand on the ”mountain of holiness;” and “in mount Zion shall be deliverance as the Lord hath said.”
We need not fear the attacks of infidels. The blasphemies of no ancient or modern Rabshakeh should shake our faith, or appall our hopes.
Their attempts to demolish the immoveable basis of the Christian’s hope are like the efforts of an ant to dig down a mountain of solid rock; the smallest fragment of which is sufficient to crush the puny adventurers. By the mode of conducting their attack, some have contributed, though contrary to design, to establish the authenticity of divine revelation, by proving this one scriptural truth, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby, is not wise.” The mad design of such apostates from reason and decency hath not been effected.
The mountain of the Lord standeth firm; against which the storms of malice beat and rage in vain. The oracles of truth remain unconsumed, and will outlive the envenomed spite of all their opposers. – Inconsistencies and absurdities will obtain both in the political and moral world. – As on the prisons and dungeons of the terrible Republic were inscribed “Liberty and equality;” so, in the very outskirts and suburbs of moral insanity, you find erected this imposing signal “The age of reason.” But let not an age of impiety drive you from the safe retreat of revealed truth. Fear not to take shelter under the banner of a despised savior. Weep for the depravity which marshals man against his maker, but doubt not the validity of what God hath spoken. Legions of opposers cannot defeat his designs. – Let infidels of enormous size and combined strength employ their efforts; let them come, like the armies of Gog and Magog, from the four quarters of the earth, or like the croaking plagues of Egypt cover the land; let them summon to their aid the force of wit and ridicule; allow them the strength of every civil arm, nerved with tenfold fury; let them speak terror with the roaring instruments of death, and brandish the sword of persecuting rage; let them arrange, in order, the whole artillery of infernal malice, and point to the burning stake, the gloomy dungeon, the torturing gibbet, and the fatal ax; let them, in short, be aided by all the powers of darkness, and, with one voice, cry concerning mount Zion “Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof,” yet ineffectual will be all their endeavors. The church must live; the church will flourish. The coalition of earth and hell cannot succeed to demolish this “mountain of holiness.” It is worse than madness then to oppose and fight against the methods of God’s grace. Our only safety lies in submitting to the force of truth, and bowing to the scepter of Jesus. This king God hath set on his holy hill of Zion, and the nations, who resist him, will he rule with a rod of iron.
In the great events which have passed, and are passing on the theatre of Europe, and arresting the attention of an astonished world, prophecy is receiving its exact accomplishment, and confirming the faith of those who look for the prosperity of Zion he truth, the justice, the holiness and the vengeance of God are remarkably exhibited to view. These overturnings among the children of men are preparatives for ushering in a more glorious day. Already the work is begun; the heralds of salvation have gone forth; the bible is making its way into the dark abodes of mahometanism and pagan idolatry; Ethiopia has stretched out her hands unto God, and the Isles are waiting for his law.
He whose right it is will take himself his great power and reign from sea to sea, and from land to land. – Borne on the wings of faith we hail the auspicious day, when “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain,” and when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” – In this view we are wrapt in ecstasy, while contemplating the display of that grace which shall effect the accomplishment of prophecy, and which shall not cease to operate, till “The stone cut out of the mountain without hands shall become a great mountain and fill the whole earth.”
It will be natural before we conclude this subject to transfer out thoughts from earth to heaven; from things visible to things invisible; and from the temporary affairs of men, in this world, to those more interesting and eternal concerns which await them at the bar of Jehovah. – There justice and holiness will appear in all their radiant beauty, perfection and glory. The trifling and short lived distinctions of men will be all done away, and impartial equity will be administered. The Ancient of Days will sit, and the books will be opened. Rulers and subjects, ministers and people of every description shall meet on a level, and be judged out of those things which are written in the books. Before this august tribunal, the court I now behold, with every other court under heaven, will dwindle into a point, and be lost in the mighty concourse of assembled worlds.
Unbelievers, whether in the higher or lower walks of life will be abashed and confounded those who have scoffed at divine truth and wantoned in the ways of impiety; who have loved the praise of men more than the praise of God and been lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, shall no longer boast of their superior reason, wisdom and enjoyment. A court, from which there is no appeal, will examine and decide the case of every man. Nor will a reversal of judgment ever comfort the hearts or mitigate the sorrows of condemned malefactors. Have ye ruled in the fear of God and maintained the cause of righteousness ? will be addressed to those who have been in authority among men. Have ye been blind leaders of the blind ? will sound in the ears and awaken the attention of ministers. Have ye obeyed magistrates? Have ye prized religious ordinances ? have ye hearkened to the voice of my servants the prophets? And have ye led peaceable and quiet lives in all godliness and honesty? Will be demanded of all who have enjoyed these privileges. All the words, actions, and motives of men will be examined and form the basis of a judgment. Then shall the sentence of approving justice confusing joy through enraptured hosts, proceed from the mouth of the final Judge, “Come, ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” and the awful denunciation, thrilling horror thro’ unnumbered millions be pronounced, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Thus when the scene of nature’s conflict with sin shall be issued, when the meditorial work is accomplished, and Christ hath delivered up the kingdom to the father, the joys and the sorrows of eternity will commence.
On this stupendous scene, my hearers, we must all attend. Shortly the trump of the great arch angel will sound, the dead will awake, and we must stand before the judgment seat of Christ. May we then hear the plaudit of our judge; and join that angelic host, “the number of whom is ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousand of thousands, saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.”
1. Rev. Messrs. Andrew Elliot of Fairfield, Joseph Washburn of Farming ton, and Justus Mitchel of New-Canaan. (Return)