Moses Welch (1754-1824) graduated from Yale in 1772. He made saltpeter with Samuel Nott for the American army’s powder supply during the Revolution. Welch was pastor of a church in Mansfield, CT (1784-1824). This election sermon was preached by him in Hartford, CT on May 14, 1812.
AN EXCELLENT SPIRIT FORMS THE CHARACTER OF A GOOD RULER:
PREACHED BEFORE THE
HONOURABLE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
STATE OF CONNECTICUT,
IN THE CITY OF HARTFORD, MAY 14, 1812.
BY MOSES C. WELCH, D. D.
PASTOR OF THE CHURCH IN NORTH-MANSFIELD
At a General Assembly of the State of Connecticut, holden at Hartford in said State, on the second Thursday of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twelve.
ORDERED, That the Honourable Calvin Goddard, and Mr. Roger Waldo, present the thanks of this Assembly to the Rev. Moses C. Welch, D. D. for his sermon, preached at the Anniversary Election on the 14th day of May instant, and request a copy thereof that it may be printed.
A true copy of record,
THOMAS DAY, Secretary.
DANIEL vi. 3.
Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the King thought to set him over the whole realm.
DURING the Babylonish captivity, Belshazzar, a descendant and successor of Nebuchadnezzar, commanded that Daniel should be clothed in scarlet, with a chain of gold about his neck, and be proclaimed the third ruler in the kingdom. This honor was conferred on him because he interpreted the hand writing upon the wall of the palace, which pointed out the king’s overthrow, and that the kingdom should be transferred to the Medes and Persians.
When Darius the Median came to the throne, he appointed over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes to superintend the public concerns. Three presidents were appointed over this number of princes; one of whom was considered as possessing supereminent talents, and was clothed with superior authority. This honor was conferred on Daniel. Though one of the children of the captivity, and a despised Jew, he was honored as prime minister of state, and chief magistrate under the grand monarch of the Medo-Persian empire. He was thus honored because an excellent spirit was in him.
Daniel in his natural state was like other men. Aside from special grace, and the supernatural agency of the divine Spirit, he was, like other men, “far from righteousness,” a stranger to God, and totally destitute of moral goodness. But as God prepares men for the post he designs they shall occupy, so Daniel was eminently qualified for his dignified station. He was furnished with natural and acquired talents, well suited to the elevated rank to which the providence of God raised him. Possessing an excellent spirit, he was appointed to the highest office within the king’s power to bestow upon him.
It will not, it is presumed, on this very interesting occasion, appear either improper or untimely, to consider, and bring into view, some things implied in the excellent spirit of Daniel; and then to offer a few reasons why this rendered his promotion to office highly suitable.
I. I am to consider some things implied in the excellent spirit that was in Daniel.
It is obvious, in the first place, that he was a man of great natural wisdom and understanding.
From the history of Daniel it is exceedingly evident that he had a strong, discerning mind, and an uncommonly sound judgment. The God of nature formed him for public life, and designed he should fill important stations, in a civil capacity, as well as in the church. He furnished him, therefore, with such a cast of mind, and all that natural discernment, and strength of judgment, suited to the station to which he was appointed in the divine plan.
Men are sometimes put into office who have not the requisite talents. Such men are an injury to the public interest, and their administration brings a blot upon themselves. The hand and providence of God, however, must be acknowledged in the exaltation of such men. The Lord has the same right to punish a people by a bad ruler, as by a tempest, an earthquake, or a pestilence. And this is often done in the course of his righteous government over the nations. He dealeth in this manner, “that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” 1 But when God designs a man shall act well in a high station he always gives him the necessary qualifications. Hence Daniel was liberally furnished with talents well suited to the dignified station he was to fill, in the empire under Darius. The Lord gave him strong powers of mind, equal, or superior, to any in that age of the world. No man among the captive Jews, nor among all the subjects of the Medo-Persian monarch, could be found, in the estimation of Darius, equal to Daniel.
We may further observe, that, with a strong mind, and sound judgment, Daniel possessed extensive information.
He probably enjoyed the means of cultivating and improving his natural talents, in early life, to a degree superior to his cotemporaries in general. We may rationally conclude he went into Babylon with a greater stock of information than was common to the youth of that age and nation. Hence we find his name first on the list of those who were noticed by the officer of Nebuchadnezzar, when seeking for the most able and promising young men to stand before the king. And he was designated, with three others, as the most suitable to learn the Chaldean language, and be instructed in all the science of that country. 2 Devoted to study, and instructed by the most able teachers, at the end of three years they were presented to the king, and were found, in all matters of wisdom and understanding, ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in the realm. 3
God can, if he please, give men, in an extraordinary manner, as much knowledge as the human mind is capable of receiving. But it is usual to obtain it by a regular course of study. Though Daniel had the extraordinary teachings of the holy Spirit, yet he gained a fund of knowledge by those means which he enjoyed, under the ablest instructors. In this way he was possessed of uncommon, extensive, and most useful information. He had an excellent spirit of wisdom and knowledge.
He possessed, moreover, in a true sense, the fear of God. Persons are said to fear God who are totally destitute of religion. Even the fallen spirits of darkness, who are doomed to everlasting woe “believe and tremble.” 4 Wicked men often tremble in view of that ceaseless torment which will be the portion of the ungodly. Believing that such characters must “drink of the wine of the wrath of God,” 5 they fear and tremble. They fear the justice of God while they hate his character. But the excellent spirit of Daniel produced a fear different both in its nature and effects. As a friend of God, and having an heart warmed with divine love, he feared to dishonor his name, wound his cause, or, in any sense, offend him. He feared God as a dutiful and affectionate child fears a kind, indulgent father. The honor of Jehovah lay near his heart, and a sincere affection for his amiable and most excellent character, influenced him in the various actions of life. The divine law was beautiful in his view, and it was the desire of his whole soul to obey it in all its demands. He had an excellent spirit of the love and fear of God.
This excellent spirit consisted, also, in a sacred regard to the public institutions of religion.
We may conclude, without any doubt, that a man so completely under the influence of love to God, will pay a sacred regard to those public religious institutions which are established by divine authority. Such a man, whether in public or private life, will, unquestionably, regard the Sabbath as a divine institution. He will not, on the Sabbath, pursue any secular business, nor indulge himself in the pleasures and common amusements of life. As the Sabbath is holy by the authority of God, and consecrated to spiritual concerns, so he will lay aside all his secular business, and observe the day with that decent attention and solemn reverence which the nature of the institution requires. From a view of the character of Daniel we conclude, without any doubt, that he observed the Sabbath as a day to be devoted to God, and consecrated to the concerns of the soul.
The excellent spirit of this public officer would induce him, also, to attend the social worship of God on the Sabbath. From the remotest ages, to which our information extends, God’s people have, universally practiced religious worship, in a social manner, on the Sabbath. This practice has been sanctioned as well by Jesus the founder of Christianity, as by the most worthy part of mankind from the earliest ages of time. And may we suppose it was neglected by Daniel? Did he think it beneath his dignity to meet with God’s people for worship? Did he view the social duties of religion unworthy of the notice of rulers, and beneath the dignity of men in high life? Alas! “great men are not always wise!” But this great man was wise both for time and eternity. He never looked down upon the social worship of Jehovah, nor treated the public institutions of religion with a sarcastic sneer. He was, indeed, greatly delighted in the worship of God, and thought himself highly honored when admitted to intimate communion with the most High. He never, in his own view, appeared in a more dignified attitude than when bowing, with fellow saints, before the sacred altar, and offering a solemn sacrifice to God.
Again: The excellent spirit of Daniel induced him to perform, statedly, the duties of private devotion. Such is human depravity that men often observe the public institutions of religion from bad motives. And they as often swim with the tide. When the current of public opinion is in favor of divine institutions, they will treat religion with decency, externally regard the Sabbath, and attend the social worship of God; especially when abroad on public business, though total strangers to piety of heart. Such men, for the most part, entirely neglect the exercises of private devotion. The religious duties of the family and closet, by men of the world, are not considered of any great importance. Strangers to piety have no intercourse with heaven. Though in peculiar distress, or under the pressure of some alarming providence, they may for a season maintain a form of private devotion, they do not hold out. It soon becomes a burdensome business, and the language of the heart is, “What profit shall we have if we pray unto him?” God has no share in their affections, and is not, with any sense of obligation, in all their thoughts.
Daniel was a different character. He was, eminently, a man of prayer. A friend to God, and enraptured by intercourse with heaven, he performed the duties of private devotion from a principle of real affection for the object of worship, and a cordial delight in duty. His enemies knew his character. They agreed, with one voice, that no accusation could be supported against him except in things “concerning the law of his God.” With this view of Daniel they persuaded the king to pass a royal statute that whosoever should ask a petition of any God, or man, save of the king, for thirty days, should be case into the den of lions. But did Daniel regard the prohibition? Did the awful penalty appal him? He feared the Lord. He knew his God, and not man was to be worshipped and obeyed. He could not be deterred from the service of God by the most powerful opposition; even by these awfully terrific threats. He persevered in a religious course, and statedly performed his devotional duties, in the very face of this regal mandate, and the enmity of those numerous and watchful sycophants of the Persian court. An excellent spirit was in him.
Further: He was a man of a courageous, intrepid spirit.
True courage consists in feeling a sense of danger, and at the same time possessing a steady, unshaken mind. The man of true courage is cool and collected in the midst of danger. When compassed with the most pressing difficulties, with liberty, and even life at hazard, he keeps his eye on the duties of his post, and steadily follows the calls of providence.
This courage may be constitutional, the offspring of a natural fortitude of mind; or it may spring from a firm reliance on God, and a religious confidence in his divine protection. Daniel, unquestionably, had both. Can we doubt this when we see him, with the full prospect of being cast into the den of the most terrible of all beasts, opposing the king’s decree, and upon his knees before God in prayer, three times a day? The natural and religions fortitude of Daniel prepared him to meet, with a steady mind, all the clamors of his enemies, with their malicious attacks upon his reputation and life. He was thus enabled to prosecute the duties of his post, and render honor to his God, even at the risk of life itself. What an excellent trait this in the character of a public officer? How peculiarly needed in the evil day of turmoil and confusion? When the reputation of the faithful servant of the public is maliciously assailed, and his character stabbed by the venomous tongue of slander, what so necessary and useful as the fortitude, the wisdom, the piety of Daniel?
I may not forget to observe that “an excellent spirit was in him,” as he had an ardent desire to promote the general good. He did not seek the good of a single friend, or a few favored individuals, to the exclusion of all the rest of the community. Nor did he aim at the interest of one particular nation, to the injury of others. A man of Daniel’s natural talents and religious attainments would not, so far, deviate from the rules of benevolence and good policy.
Iniquity will never be transformed to righteousness by royal authority; nor the nature of benevolence and selfishness assimilated by the power of rulers. Crowned heads and dignified officers, who are, often, no better than royal cut-throats, and exalted robbers, get to themselves great renown by those deeds which would send a private individual to the state prison for life, or consign him to the hand of the executioner.
What some consider as true patriotism is the very essence of selfishness. Individuals have rights which may never be infringed for the benefit of other individuals. Towns and states have rights peculiar to them as such, and these may not be invaded. There are, also, national as well as individual rights, which are to be sacredly regarded. It is wrong in the nature of things, and therefore a moral evil, to invade the rights of one nation for the benefit of another. A nation of untutored savages are no more to be molested in their natural rights, than a people in the highest state of civilization.
True patriotism is consistent with perfect benevolence. It, therefore, supposes desiring the good of our own country consistently, and in connection, with the interests of other nations. This is true patriotism. And this grows out of that piety which consists in supreme affection for God, and a cordial regard for our fellow sinners; which aims at the glory of Jehovah, and the increase of happiness in the rational system. This is the spirit which rulers ought to possess, however diverse from many exalted characters in this fallen world. And this, it is presumed, is the “excellent spirit” that was in Daniel. Sincerely aiming at the general good, he endeavoured to form his principles of government, and to calculate the rules of his administration, upon the perfect scale of, what we now call, Christian benevolence.
To do to others as we would that they should do to us is a perfect rule, and it is as binding on nations as individuals. This is that righteousness which dignifies and exalteth a nation; while the contrary is a part of that debasing sin which is a reproach to any people. Such as make war and shed blood either to gratify human passions, or to extend empire, imitate the Alexanders, the Neroes, the Napoleons of this ungodly world, more than those benevolent rulers who possess the “excellent spirit” of Daniel.
I am now.
II. To offer some reasons why this excellent spirit of Daniel rendered his promotion to office highly suitable.
Of the many reasons which might be offered we will notice the following.
In the first place, a man of such a spirit would be likely to honor his post.
A public station is honorable; and it is important for the good of men that it be held in high repute. The character and conduct of public officers either raise or sink the post, in point of respectability, in the public estimation. Should judges and counselors of state mix with the common herd of low characters; or the representatives of a free people join indiscriminately with the vicious and profane, how it would disgrace their station! Should the chief magistrate of the state, or the first ruler of the nation, take abandoned sinners to his bosom, deride the gospel of Jesus, speak contemptuously of the son of God, and revel in a black catalogue of crimes, how debasing to the office!
But a different course does honor to a public post. When men in office act with a dignified deportment, manifesting a disposition to honor God, and promote the religion of the Bible, it does honor to them as rulers, and adds dignity and respectability to the office. When to this they join such a line of conduct as promotes the good of men, and increases the happiness of those over whom they rule; they appear well in view of the virtuous part of the community, and command the respect, even of the disorderly and profane. It is said of Epaminondas, the Grecial philosopher and general, that he had scarcely any vice, and almost every virtue to distinguish him from the rest of mankind. And that he so behaved himself in exalted stations, as did more honor to dignities than dignities to him. 6
Such a ruler was Daniel. His enemies hated him, and sought his destruction, not because there was anything bad in his administration or character, but because they possessed the rancorous feelings of disappointed ambition. Daniel was raised above them. He possessed the highest confidence of the king, who placed him first among all his officers. And he so discharged the duties of his elevated station as to answer the raised expectations of Darius. He was so wise, just and good in his administration, that his bitter enemies could support no accusation against him. His conduct, both in a civil and religious view, was so upright, noble and dignified, as to do great honor to the station in which he was placed.
His appointment to office was highly suitable, also, because his character insured fidelity to the public interest.
Men are influenced by various motives to act well in office. A man may aim at the public interest merely on selfish principles. So long as it will secure his own popularity, and promote his private interest he will act well for the public. But in this case there is no bond by which he is holden to perseverance in the path of righteousness. The moment the tables are turned his course is changed. Let him only feel safe as to public opinion, or have an opportunity of making his own private fortune, and the public interest is sacrificed at a blow. Such a man will, to-day, be a warm republican, blazon with zeal for universal freedom and the rights of man, swearing eternal enmity to kings and crowned heads. Tomorrow, he will throw off the mask, grasp at power, become an emperor, reign as a despot, and struggle to bring all nations to his feet.
The man of an excellent spirit is possessed of more noble views, and influenced by vastly different motives. He is, continually, under the influence by vastly different motives. He is, continually, under the influence of a solemn view of accountability. Sensible of the divine omniscience, he believes that all his secret designs, as well as public actions, are open to the view of God. He knows the day is fast approaching when God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing. He looks to the solemn period when rulers and subjects will stand on a level at the bar of Jehovah, and receive the reward of their deeds. In view of that solemn day, and awful process, he acts in public and private life; and, as a friend to God and man, performs faithfully, the duties of his station. To secure fidelity to the public interest, faithful men who fear God and hate covetousness, are to be appointed to office. As Daniel was eminently such a character, so his promotion was highly proper.
Further. It was so because it would promote the public good.
When men of an excellent spirit hold the reins of government, the people are generally prosperous and happy. The sacred and profane history of the world will confirm this position. What nation has not prospered under the government of wise and godly men? This was the case with Israel, most evidently, for a number of centuries. Whenever God designed their prosperity, he gave them wise and good men to rule over them. And he often punished them by the administration of some abandoned wretch; some vicious, unfeeling, impious tyrant. How happy were God’s ancient covenant people under the administration of Solomon, Josiah, Hezekiah, Asa, and Nehemiah, with a long catalogue of excellent characters? And how different the picture with the dark shades drawn from the reign of Ahab, Manasseh, Jeroboam, and a group of wretches that brought misery and distress on the land and people of God!—If we come nearer home we cannot avoid calling to mind the unexampled prosperity of our own country, under the administration of the most able statesman, and wise ruler that has lived for ages. Future generations, from the page of history, will contrast the happy state of united America, under the guidance of the immortal Washington, with our present deranged, distracted, disgraced condition. Yea, what man, with the facts before him, will not, by irresistible conviction, be compelled to acknowledge the beneficial effects of electing able and wise men to the first offices, in this state?
Connecticut has moved on regularly for more than a century and an half, 7 and been, in a singular manner, prosperous and happy. We have had a succession of rulers, first in office, who by profession and external deportment, have feared God, and reverenced his institutions. Under their wise administration the state has prospered. No nation of men, nor can any state in the union, boast of so great prosperity and happiness for such a course of years. And we, equally, out-vie all other people in the number and extent of our privileges, both of a civil and religious nature. In the means of education, and the general diffusion of information, with the equal enjoyment of liberty among all ranks of people, we exceed what falls to the share of any spot on the globe. In these respects we stand unrivalled in the annals of time. And to what can this be ascribed but the blessing of God upon the labors, and faithful services, of a long list of able, wise, godly men that have ruled over this state? From the venerable and pious Haynes 8 down to the late excellent, beloved and much lamented Trumbull, the powers of government have been exercised to general satisfaction, and, almost, without a stain. Yea, delicacy will forbid me to name, on this occasion, one of later date, who for wisdom, piety, firmness and integrity, is not exceeded by his predecessors. 9 Strangers to the delusive arts of intrigue and duplicity, which under a cloud of mystery envelope public measures in total darkness; they have neither needed the aid of “secret service money,” nor lavished thousands of the public treasure upon worthless tools to accomplish arty designs, or bring about selfish ends. Open sincerity and honorable frankness, the striking characteristics of an “excellent spirit,” like the resplendent gens in the breast-plate of the Jewish high priest, have given a sparkling lustre to the counsels of Connecticut.
When we call to mind the worthies who have guided the public affairs of this state, we may, confidently and affectionately, recognize their administration to have been “as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds.”
Once more. It was highly suitable Daniel should be appointed to office because it would promote the moral interest of the community.
The moral good of a person, or people, is as much more important than their civil or political interest, as eternity exceeds time. Time is short. The period for enjoying good, or suffering evil here, is but momentary. In this life we are fitted for a never ending existence; and men are greatly influenced in their feelings about moral things by the conduct of others. The influence of example is exceedingly great; especially the example of men high in office. Rulers may do much to encourage morality and religion in society. If the public officer be virtuous, fear God, and sacredly regard divine institutions;--if he be a man of prayer, and eminent for practical godliness, he does not bear the sword in vain. He is a terror to evil doers, and encourages men to do well. The benefit of his administration, in a moral view, is incalculable.
The religious feelings and conduct of Daniel had a surprising and extensive influence. He persisted in worshipping the true God in the face of a most powerful opposition; and this opened the door to a train of wonderful events.
He was cast into the den of lions, and miraculously preserved. The king was greatly affected with his wonderful deliverance, and made a decree that, throughout all his empire, men should everywhere fear and tremble before the God of Daniel. How amazing was the influence of one godly ruler! It extended through the vast dominions of the Persian monarch. Was it not then highly suitable such a man should be exalted?
In the improvement of the subject we are led to remark, in the first place, that the rulers of states and nations ought to be governed, in their administration, by Christian benevolence.
Would rulers and potentates of the earth calculate their principles of government upon this perfect scale, making “righteousness the girdle of their loins, and faithfulness the girdle of their reins,” war and shedding blood would universally come to an end. In this way we are to expect the introduction of that happy state of the world, so much the subject of prophecy. We are looking for the reign of righteousness and peace on earth. The scriptures point out an approaching period when, in the figurative language of prophecy, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” When the “root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign of the people, and his rest shall be glorious,” wars will come to an end, the world be filled with the knowledge and love of God, and the peaceful reign of Christ extend over the whole earth.
This happy state of the world will not supersede the necessity of rulers. There is subordination among the glorious inhabitants of heaven; and this will exist in the most perfect state of society on earth. God will, probably, introduce this happy state of the world by inclining the people, universally, to promote godly men to office. Such characters will make Christian benevolence the rule of their administration, and so peace will prevail through the world. In this way kings will become nursing fathers, and queens nursing mothers. At that period demagogues and tyrants will either be converted to the feelings of the humble followers of Jesus, or be sent to that place where there will be full scope for their selfish, turbulent, aspiring dispositions, under their prime leader, the first apostate, to all eternity.
2. The subject leads to remark that the public interest is greatly endangered by the promotion of bad men. It is an aphorism of eternal truth that “The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted. 10 Under the administration of unprincipled, vicious men, the enemies of God will hold up their heads, and become bold in sin. Having the countenance of great names they feel easy in crimes that debase human nature, and expose them to the wrath of God forever. Man has a natural inclination to sin, and is, in many instances, deterred from it only by the dread of public odium. Let this dread be removed by the example of great men in office, and iniquity is committed with greediness. It is almost as fatal to the morals of a country as to establish iniquity by law. There have been attempts to persuade the good citizens of this country that incorrect moral sentiments, or vicious characters, are no bar to the first offices. It has been said with great assurance, and as much impudence, that sentiment and moral character form no part of the qualities of a civil ruler;--that a man may be a wise statesman, and a good ruler, who worships any God, or no God. This idea, the child of Satan, by the infamous prostitute impiety, has too far obtained credit, and the evil is now visible. Infidelity is countenanced, iniquity hath increased, the accursed demon of discord stalks, in triumph, through the land, and our country is driven to her wits end. The morals of a country cannot be endangered by anything more than the promotion of unprincipled and vicious men. A nation of infidels, never did, never can, prosper.
It is of incalculable importance to guard the principles, and secure the morals of our youth. Were the system of education suited to the feelings of such as wish to encourage infidelity and licentiousness, a few revolving seasons would produce a total change in the moral complexion of this state. Too much caution cannot be used to guard the rising hope of our land against those demoralizing principles that have buried in ruins the liberties of other countries. The fairest portion of Europe is now held up, as a beacon, to warn us of our danger. If we are ever caught, completely in the vortex, we shall be hurried down into the great deep of political and moral wretchedness; for we shall then have men to rule over us who have the “teeth of a lion, and the cheek-teeth of a great lion!”
When the sentiment becomes general that infidels and debauchees are as good characters to rule over men as virtuous believers in Jesus, we may bid farewell to liberty, and our highly valued privileges. We may then cry, with tears of lamentation, O Connecticut, hadst thou known, even thou, in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy prosperity! But now they are hid from thine eyes! For an Ichabod will, certainly, be inscribed upon the fair inheritance transmitted by our worthy, departed ancestors. Of such rulers every good and well informed citizen will say, O my soul, come not thou into their secrets; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united!
3. The subject presents a serious idea respecting the subordinate civil officers of the state. Is it not vastly important that men of an excellent spirit should fill those offices? Much depends, let the speaker modestly observe, upon the execution of the salutary laws of the state. If no notice be taken of the open violation of law it sinks the dignity of authority, detracts from the importance and solemnity of an oath, and paralyzes the arm of government. We depend on the ministers of justice not only to protect us in the quiet enjoyment of our civil rights, but to encourage the moral interest of the state. And how can this be done while the penal statutes are not put in force? Solomon pertinently observes, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily; therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. 11
As a mark of public indignation, and a terror to men, certain crimes are to be corrected by force of law. By this criminals may be reformed, and their families saved from wretchedness and woe. Were the laws against tipling houses and drunkenness rigidly executed, how many miserable wretches might be saved from perdition; how many wives from unspeakable distress; and what great numbers of miserable children from hunger and rags?—Was every instance of open profanity punished to the extent of law, our ears would not, so often, be offended by the sacrilegious abuse of the awful name of Jehovah.—Were exertions made by the united force of the civil powers to suppress the growing violation of God’s holy day, we should not, every Sabbath, be disturbed by the noise of travelling, on common business, or for the purpose of amusement. Yea, we should not, as is common, see men laboring in the field, on the Lord’s day. Let the speaker unite his feeble voice, with the loud cry of many, from various parts of our land, for some vigorous exertions to check the growing evil. Let not practical godliness, by consent of authority, be driven from our country. Oh, let not our children be taught to forget the Sabbath, when we are in the dust! The correction of these evils depends much on the fidelity of the ministers of justice.
Let me, furthermore, observe with great deference to the constituted authorities of the State, that legislators have, in our subject, a noble pattern for imitation.
Daniel was elevated to office “because an excellent spirit was in him.” The character of that man of God affords to the chief magistrate, and legislative authority of every grade, a most excellent example. They are to seek the public good by enacting salutary laws, and appointing faithful men to execute them. While they guard and support our literary institutions, encourage the means of education for children, and take effectual measures to suppress vice, and secure the morals of the rising generation; they are eminently promoting the political and moral interest of the state. By a cordial affection for the founder of Christianity, with an open defence, and practical support of his holy religion, they become the “ministers of God for good unto the people.” Like Daniel they love the true God, and like him will risk everything for his honor.—This may excite the opposition of turbulent spirits, and produce vollies of slander from them that have “not known the way of peace.” If the whole force of a numerous herd of evil counselors was brought into action against such an “excellent spirit” as Daniel, can faithful men escape? The loud “hosanna to the son of David,” sounding from the multitude, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, was soon changed to the cry of “away with him from the earth—let him be crucified.” The shafts of malice have ever been thrown at the faithful. But they rarely make a deep wound. The great mind looks down with a dignified indifference, and says with an Apostle, None of these things move me. Under the trials of this kind there is nothing will so animate and support the faithful servants of the public as a consciousness of integrity towards God, and fidelity to the public interest. Neither cast down by the obloquy of invidious tongues, nor elated by the praises of flattering sycophants, they may enjoy the sweets of a peaceful conscience, and joyfully expect the final approbation of a merciful God. While such a course will render them eminently useful, it will give them peace in the hour of serious reflection, console them at the approach of dissolution, insure them acquittance at the final judgment, and exalt them to the state of “kings and priests unto God and the Lamb.”
Relying on the candor and patience of this respectable assembly, I observe further, that the ministers of religion are seriously reminded of the obligation to fidelity in the duties of their office. Influenced by the “excellent spirit” of Daniel we are to aim at the honor of God, and the good of our fellow men. To answer these important ends we are to enforce the doctrines of the cross, and persuade men to become reconciled to God. It is a high commendation of the religion we preach, that such as cordially embrace it become good members of society. The best citizens in every country, where the banner of the cross has been displayed, are those who cordially embrace the religion of Jesus. This holy religion transforms the prowling wolf to an inoffensive lamb, and changes the ravening leopard to a gentle kid.—Wherever Christianity has prevailed it has always ameliorated the state of society. The most barbarous and savage customs have been exchanged for the peaceful habits of piety and love. Instead of the barbarity of the untutored savage we find the kind hospitality of the good Samaritan. While this wipes away the scandal of the cross, it highly commends the religion of the lowly Jesus. And it shows the excellency and importance of those institutions for spreading the knowledge of Christianity, and the dissemination of the word of God, which the faithful ministers of the gospel in all Christian countries encourage and support. How benevolent, how godlike, to put the word of life into the hands of the poor, and extend the religion of Christ even to foreign climes! And how animating the idea that the “sun of righteousness” is about to arise upon the heathen world, “with healing in his wings,” and with divine light overspread the dark regions of the globe! The morning star has actually risen. Light springs up in the east, and the long expected day is ushering in. Many of our fellow-servants begin to “run to and fro” to carry the glad tidings of salvation to the perishing heathen. Christian knowledge is overspreading the pagan world, and multitudes are bowing to Jesus in those places that have been eminently “the habitations of cruelty.”
Instead of disturbers of the public peace, then, and “those that have turned the world upside down,” 12 as the enemies of the cross invidiously represent us, we are the highly favored instruments of great good to our fellow sinners. The sum of our teaching is that men must fear God, love Jesus and one another, obey rulers, and seek the good of civil society. While, therefore, we are teaching men to be good citizens, we are leading them to comfort and peace on earth, and eternal blessedness in heaven. This may support us under all the burdens of the way. We shall reap in due time if we faint not.
This anniversary points us to the close of our ministry. How short the period since we were assembled in this house on a similar occasion! We are borne, imperceptibly, down the stream of life. How many of our fellow-citizens who were here one year ago will be here no more! The end of our labors approaches with unabating—yea, I had almost said, with increased rapidity. The death of five of our fellow-servants the year past, calls us to keep in mind the account we must render of our stewardship. 13 They have finished their course, and are gone, we hope, from long and eminent usefulness, to the rewards of the faithful. A loud call this to increased fidelity in the service of our master. And to this there are many and powerful motives. The honor of the glorious Redeemer—the good of civil society—the salvation of immortal souls, and a bright crown of glory to ourselves:--These are motives to diligence and fidelity in the work assigned us. Though briars and thorns may be in our path, yet if we run well we shall obtain the prize. The devil may possibly cast some of us into prison, and we may have tribulation ten days, yet “He that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks,” hath said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” 14
Finally. The citizens, at large, may draw instruction from our subject. If such be the character of a good ruler, and so important the benefits of his administration, then a wise people will feel their dependence upon God for good rulers. And in electing to office they will be influenced by the fear of God, and a regard to the public interest. By a wise election of good and faithful men to the first offices, we have been, hitherto, preserved. We hold an elevated rank in point of privileges, and have abundant cause of gratitude that we have our judges as at the first, and our counselors as at the beginning. That Connecticut may never be destitute of men of ‘an excellent spirit,’ to fill the first offices, will be the devout wish and the earnest prayer of every wise and virtuous citizen.
While the good people of the state are sensible of their invaluable privileges, may they have wisdom and firmness to defend them. May they, above all, and first of all, choose the fear of God, cordially embracing the gospel of his Son. While such a course will afford them the best security for the continuance of their civil rights, it will present a safe barrier against the terrors of death, and prepare them for the beatific joys of saints and angels above.
Ere long, my fellow-citizens, we shall be, either suffering those horrors which are the certain consequences of immoral sentiments and corrupt manners; or, joyfully, reaping the rewards of a life devoted to God, and the good of men. Such as view these things in the light of revelation, seriously anticipate the awful solemnities of the period when God our Saviour will come down to judge the world. In the grand assembly that will stand before the son of man we, of this congregation, shall not be indifferent spectators. We shall feel an interest in the transactions of that day vast as the infinite value of the soul; solemn as eternity! The once despised man of Nazareth, arrayed in the awful glory of the supreme God, will address those who have received the atonement by faith, and humbly served him here, with a “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” But such as have despised his truth, and rejected the offers of life, he will doom to the regions of darkness and interminable despair.
Let us then, my fellow sinners, feel the force of these interesting realities, knowing that Now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation! And when the Lord Jesus shall give to every man according as his work hath been, may we, through his abounding grace, have a seat among the shining ranks in glory, and celebrate the praises of God our Saviour, forever and ever.
1. Dan. iv.17. (Return)
2. Dan. i. 3, 4, 5, 6. (Return)
3. Dan. i. 20. (Return)
4. James ii. 19. (Return)
5. Rev. xiv. 10. (Return)
6. Goldsmith’s history of Greece, Vol. 2. P. 10. (Return)
7. The first constitution of government for Connecticut, was agreed on, and adopted, by all the free planters, convened at Hartford, Jan. 14, 1639. Trumbull’s Hist. of Con. P. 95. (Return)
8. Governor Haynes was elected on the second Thursday in April, A.D. 1639. Trumbull’s Hist. of Con. (Return)
9. When this discourse was penned, the writer could not foresee that the worthy character alluded to in this paragraph would be present, otherwise his delicacy might not have been put to the severe test which the delivery of it may have occasioned. It was also confidently expected that the present excellent chief magistrate, for whom the writer has a high respect, would be at the head of the assembly, which is the only reason for not particularly naming governor Griswold in the list of the first political luminaries of Connecticut. (Return)
10. Psalm xii 8. (Return)
11. Ecclesiastes viii. 11. (Return)
12. Acts xvii. 6. (Return)
13. Rev. Noah Williston, of West-Haven, AEtat. 85.; Rev. Joel Bordwell, of Kent, AEtat. 80.; Rev. Cyprian Strong, D. D. of Chatham, AEtat. 67; Rev. John Gurley, of Exeter, in Lebanon, AEtat. 64.; Rev. David Huntington, of Lyme, AEtat 70. (Return)
14. Rev. ii. 10. (Return)