Chauncey Lee (1763-1842) graduated from Yale in 1784. He was pastor of a church in Sunderland, VT; Colebrook, NY; and Marlborough, CT (1790-1835). This election sermon was preached by Lee in Hartford, CT on May 13, 1813.
THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD THE TRUE SOURCE AND
STANDARD OF HUMAN GOVERNMENT
PREACHED ON THE DAY OF THE
STATE OF CONNECTICUT,
MAY 13TH, 1813.
BY CHAUNCEY LEE,
PASTOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH IN COLEBROOK.
See that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
At a General Assembly of the State of Connecticut, holden at Hartford, in said State, on the second Thursday of May, A. D. 1813.
ORDERED, That the Hon. Aaron Austin, and Samuel Mills, Esq. present the thanks of this Assembly to the Rev. CHAUNCEY LEE, for his Sermon delivered at the anniversary Election, and request a copy thereof that it may be printed.
A true copy of record,
THOMAS DAY, Secretary.
MATTHEW vi. 13.
For thine the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
These words are the conclusion of that short and memorable form of prayer, which our Saviour taught his disciples. They are also the ground of all the preceding petitions, and the weighty argument, by which they are jointly and severally enforced. These, from lisping infancy, we have been accustomed to repeat. They have been the language of devotion in the nursery, in the closet, in the family, and in the sanctuary, through every age of the gospel church; and to the true worshipper will ever be the most expressive words of prayer and praise. They are the common centre, source and argument of all his requests; for, with him, the glory of God is the supreme object of desire. To the saints on earth, and in heaven, they are the standing medium of divine communion. While they expand the heart with love and devotion, they pour the richest instruction upon the mind, present the sublimest objects of faith and hope, and lead up the soul, in holy rapture, to the Father of mercies, the infinite fountain of good.
The character of God being the foundation of all religion, the spirit of devotion is also that of obedience; and for the same reason, why we should love and worship God, we are bound to acknowledge and serve him, in all the various duties and relations of human life.
The text, therefore, not only presents the important objects of faith, but has an immediate respect to moral practice. It opens the source of all religious knowledge. It evidences truth, and enforces duty. It is the foundation of the good man’s hope and joy, and the sword of avenging justice to alarm and punish the wicked. It is interesting to every individual, and applies to all human occasions. Let us, then, with reverence attend to it; and may the Spirit of God assist and bless our inquiries.
The great subject before us, is this discourse, is the GOVERNMENT of God. No subject is more interesting. In none other, is presented such an engaging and extensive field for devout contemplation, and religious improvement. The theme, indeed, is boundless and inexhaustible. To glance at a few of its most prominent parts, is all that we can or dare assume. But where reason faints and nature fails, faith may flourish, and devotion say, “O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.” 1
In this exalted view, is the subject presented in the text. Every word is emphatical—in orderly succession, regularly advancing, enlarging, rising, and brightening at every step; till we are conducted, in the vast field of God’s holy purposes, from the commencement of created existence, to the grand consummation of all things, in the highest happiness and glory of his eternal kingdom.
1. The first point of instruction held up in the text shews the government of God to be original and supreme. “Thine is the kingdom,” expresses a high and incommunicable attribute—a peculiar and distinguishing glory of the King Eternal, totally inapplicable to any created potentate. It is thine in the most absolute sense—thine emphatically and exclusively.
As God is the creator, he is the proprietor and Lord of all things. The kingdom is his, by right of creation. He singly fills the throne of underived and supreme dominion. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again. For of him, and through him, and to him are all things.” 2 Who, then, shall dare dispute God’s property in the works of his hands—his right to govern the creatures he hath made—to establish the ordinances of earth and heaven—to give laws to universal nature; and to decree and effect the various conditions of angels and men? Having an absolute property in all his works, he hath good right to do what he will with his own. This is a dictate of human reason, no less than of divine revelation. Men themselves assert this prerogative. In the fruits of our own labour and skill, we claim, in relation to our fellow-men, an absolute and exclusive property. The principle applies with infinite force to the government of God. Because he is the maker, he is the Lord of all things.
This truth is uniformly taught in the sacred volume. It is there celebrated as the ground of the divine authority and government—of the rightful and supreme dominion of Jehovah. There his character is displayed, as the great author of existence, and clothed in all the majesty and glory of creating power. “The Lord hath made all things for himself.” 3 And the church triumphant sing, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” 4
2. The government of God is unlimited in extent. “Thine is the kingdom,” teaches us not only that the kingdom is the Lord’s by right of creation, and that as proprietor and Lord, he possesses supreme dominion, but that his government is universal. There is no other kingdom but his. The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom ruleth over all. 5 He is above all, and through all, and in all. 6
The Most High is not like the false gods of the heathen, a local and tutelary deity; limited to a particular place—presiding over the interests of a certain people, or country, and confining his attention to some favourite objects of human concern. Nor are there, according to the Magian heresy, two independent, co-existing and co-eternal beings, as the originating cause, and separate authors, the one of good, and the other of evil. No. There is ONE Lord; and his kingdom is neither limited, nor divided. He alone is the great first cause of all things, declaring, in the solemn majesty of his word, “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil, I the Lord do all these things.” 7
God is an infinite spirit, and pervades all space. His government respects all creatures, and directs all events. His providential agency is universal. The hairs of our heads are all numbered, and, without him, not even a sparrow falls to the ground. Every object or occurrence forms a part of this one immeasurable whole, and is a little stream issuing from this infinite fountain. This truth gives importance to the smallest things; and, without it, the greatest would lose their magnitude. Inexpressive of order, beauty or design, the moral world would be involved in chaotic darkness and confusion.
Vain, my brethren, is that religion which ascribes to casualty the direction of events; or, arrogating to creatures the rightful honours of the Creator, yields not to Jehovah the absolute possession of his throne, and the universal influence of his power. Absurd is that philosophy, opposition of science falsely so called, which, by ascribing any independent efficacy to means and second causes, opposes the sovereign and universal agency of God—shuts out the immediate presence and action of the divine Maker from any part of his system; and denies to the King Eternal, that dominion, which he exercises over all the works of his hands.
3. The government of God is absolutely perfect. “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.” A very interesting advance is here made in the text. By this it appears, that the Most High God not only exercises a rightful, supreme and universal dominion, but that he is perfectly well qualified to reign. He possesses, in the fullest manner, all the requisite qualifications to ensure the highest and most important end of government, the greatest possible good and happiness of his subjects. Thine is the power and the glory; that is, all power, and all glory are thine.
The glory of God, as defined in his word, and especially as declared in his name published to Moses, is, essentially, his goodness. God is glorious in all his works; all his works praise him, because they manifest his infinite benevolence. They conspire to the full and final accomplishment of the purposes of infinite goodness—that high and important end for which he made, and for which he governs the world. In this, his wisdom is necessarily implied. It is immediately and inseparably connected. Therefore, by glory in the text, the wisdom and goodness of God are primarily and specially intended.
Here, then, are presented, in a collective view, the three great requisites of a perfect government—goodness, wisdom and power. Goodness to act with a benevolent regard to the happiness of the subject—wisdom to devise and adopt the best means, for effecting the best ends; and power sufficient to put in execution the plans thus devised.—Can a doubt be entertained, whether these requisites of supreme magistracy belong to that great and infinite being, whose is the kingdom, and the power and the glory? That God is able to do whatever he pleases, is a first principle in natural religion. All power is his. “With God all things are possible.” His wisdom is unsearchable. “He is the only wise God.” His goodness is his glory. “There is none good but one, and that is God.” 8
4. The government of God is everlasting. “Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.” The government of God is not only rightful in its origin—supreme in its authority—universal in extent; and administered with infinite perfection; but it is unlimited in duration. There never can be any revolution, nor changes in Jehovah’s empire. No insurrections among his subjects, the most numerous or mighty, and with the utmost malice, power and subtlety combined, can shake the stable pillars of his throne; or, for a moment interrupt, divert, retard, or weaken the steady advancement of his high and holy purpose. God lives and reigns forever. He is “the King immortal, invisible and eternal. His dominion endureth throughout all generations, and his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.” 9
After the whole race of mortals, in their successive generations, shall have trodden and passed off the stage—after the empires of men shall have all sunk in oblivion—this scene of human butchery, bloodshed and tears, be closed, and the bustling energies of this rolling ball, be over and gone forever;--after all the systems of the natural world shall be dissolved, time be lost in eternity, and ages of ages have rolled away, the GOVERNMENT of God will still remain—his wisdom, power and goodness be still shining, with increased and increasing effulgence; and the glory and happiness of his kingdom will still be advancing, rising, and brightening forever, without the least approximation to their utmost height.
But in these sublime elevations of faith, we have not yet reached the crowning excellency of the subject, nor laid our hand upon the key stone of the glorious arch. Under the reign of the great Messiah, the God of heaven hath set up in our ruined world a KINGDOM of GRACE, as the only vestibule connected with, and leading to the kingdom of glory. The God-man, Christ Jesus, is the anointed king of Zion, and sways the scepter of universal empire. Great, without controversy, is the mystery of godliness—God manifest in the flesh—suffering the death of the cross—rising and ascending to heaven—living and reigning forever, the head of all authority, and of all vital influences to his redeemed church.
Abstracted from the mediatorial economy, and the hope set before us in the gospel, of what advantage or avail could it be to the sinful children of men—what source of happiness, or of hope, to know that a God of infinite perfection governs the world, and will reign forever; a God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and who will, by no means, clear the guilty? With the devils, we might believe and tremble, but never could have any warrant to hope and rejoice. What has a rebel, under the best government, to expect from the hand of his offended sovereign, whose goodness, no less than his justice, seals his condemnation, but the certain execution of the penalty of the law? And what, to the unpardoned sinner, is his prospect of immortality? An interminable scene of darkness, suffering and horror, as dreadful as eternity and the wrath of God can make it. But, blessed be God for Jesus Christ, and that pardon, salvation and eternal life, which he hath purchased with his blood, and freely bestows on all who the God of heaven hath set up in our ruined world a KINGDOM of GRACE, as only vestibule connected with, and leading to the kingdom of glory. The God-man, Christ Jesus, is the anointed king of Zion, and sways the scepter of universal empire. Great, without controversy, is the mystery of godliness—God manifest in the flesh—suffering the death of the cross—rising and ascending to heaven—living and reigning forever, the head of all authority, and of all vital influences to his redeemed church.
Abstracted from the mediatorial economy, and the hope set before us in the gospel, of what advantage or avail could it be to the sinful children of men—what source of happiness, or of hope, to know that a God of infinite perfection governs the world, and will reign forever; a God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and who will, by no means, clear the guilty? With the devils, we might believe and tremble, but never could have any warrant to hope and rejoice. What has a rebel, under the best government, to expect from the hand of his offended sovereign, whose goodness, no less than his justice, seals his condemnation, but the certain execution of the penalty of the law? And what, to the unpardoned sinner, is his prospect of immortality? An interminable scene of darkness, suffering and horror, as dreadful as eternity and the wrath of God can make it. But, blessed be God for Jesus Christ, and that pardon, salvation and eternal life, which he hath purchased with his blood, and freely bestows on all who believe in his name.—Here is the foundation of christians’ hope and joy; here, of the faith and patience of the saints; here, with heart and voice, and uplifted hands, they cry, “thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever;” and unitedly shout their joyful Amen.
Let us now attend to some useful reflections on this subject, in the way of application and improvement.
1. It is evidently the great design of God’s government to display his character. This is the language of his word and providence, and the important instruction of his wisdom, in all his administrations. He gives us no misrepresentations of himself. His judgments are ever according to truth. He “is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.” 10 —The various circumstances of men, the many and constant changes taking place in the world, which human sagacity can neither foresee, nor prevent, display the sovereign, all-disposing hand of Him, who doth according to his will, in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. 11
The government of God is as benevolent as his nature, unchangeable as his being, and unlimited as his works. It is the united display of all his perfections, in the production of their proper fruits. It is that sensible medium, by which the divine character is diffused and acted out. In a word, it is the visible portraiture of the invisible God, drawn by his own hand, and corresponding in all its parts with the most perfect exactness, to its infinite original.
Of the mysteries of divine providence, in the prosecution of the great, eternal plan of God, in which every creature, of every character, angels, saints, wicked men and devils have all some part to act, and as instruments, are accomplishing his purposes; of these, we have but a very imperfect view. It is “a wheel within a wheel.” Infinite regularity, order and design, in apparent disorder and confusion. We see but a small part of the great whole—but here and here a link in the infinitely extended chain. Yet surely we see enough to believe the rest. We see wisdom, order and design in the works of creation; and shall we hastily conclude that his agency and divine skill are less concerned in his kingdom of providence—his oral government of the world? Certainly not. Our views of this subject are narrowed by ignorance, and darkened by pride. These blind our mental sight to the wisdom and beauty of the divine government.
Present to the eye of an ignorant man the mere outlines of a piece of portrait, or landscape painting, before the finer touches of the pencil have given them any expression or likeness—he will see only lines and sketches—he cannot enter into the spirit of the artist; and he recognizes neither beauty, order, nor design in the plan. It is thus, though in a much higher degree, with men, short sighted creatures, in judging of the government of God. The scale is so large, the objects so numerous and multiform, and the plan so complicate, diffuse and wonderful; and alas! such is there disinclination of heart, such their stupid inattention to the works and ways of God, that though they have eyes, they see not; though they have understandings, they perceive not the glorious perfection of his government. Not discerning the connection, design and tendency of its parts, they question its wisdom. They look at the shades in the painting, and call them blemishes. But take away the shades, and the beauty is gone. Remove these blemishes, and the plan itself is destroyed.
It is moral beauty, however, which forms the distinguishing excellency of the divine government. This must, in some measure, be seen, loved and imitated by us, or we have no true knowledge of God. This constitutes the happiness of his children. This fills all heaven with joy, and calls forth the adoring hallelujahs of saints and angels above; who cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 12
2. Redemption is the end of all God’s other works both of creation and providence. To this great object, as their central point, all the mighty displays of divine wisdom, power and goodness are directed. The eternal Father hath invested his Son, our God-Man Mediator, with supreme and universal dominion, in fulfillment of his eternal covenant promise; and in reward of Christ’s obedience unto death. He is given to be head over all things to the church; and must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. God hath set his king upon his holy hill of Zion, and glorious things are spoken of the city of our God, 13 respecting the enlargement, peace and prosperity of the Redeemer’s kingdom in the latter day. The benign influence of Christianity shall pervade and actuate every heart, and the glory of the Lord overspread and fill the earth.—Here is the consummation of God’s precious promises to his militant church—the blessed fruits of her hard struggles and conflicts, through all preceding ages—her glorious victory, obtained by a warfare of six thousand years.
The promises of God to his church are interesting, they are animating, they are glorious. Listen to the voice of prophecy, beyond conception, elegant, sublime and heavenly. Oh, it is sweet as the music of an angel’s lyre—transporting as the songs of the New Jerusalem. “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee; and the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” 14
Of all subjects, this is the nearest to the heart of the Christian. It must enkindle the flame of devotion and zeal, in every friend of Zion. It has supported the hopes, excited the longing desires, and called forth the fervent prayers of God’s afflicted people, in all ages of the world. At the same time, the success of the gospel has ever been confronted, by the most determined opposition of its enemies. This has employed their tongues, their pens, and their words. It has called into action all the subtlety and false philosophy of the human heart. It has enkindled and pointed the thunderbolts of war—caused the convulsion and distress of nations, and immolated millions upon its altar.
But they are waging a desperate war. They are setting themselves as briars and thorns, in battle array against the devouring flame. By all their rage and malice, God is fulfilling his purposes; and amidst all the confusion and distress of the nations, he is strengthening and rearing the walls of Zion. And the glorious work of grace he will carry on and accomplish; for the kingdom, power and glory are his forever. His truth and faithfulness are pledged that he “will make Jerusalem a praise in the earth;” and that “the kingdom, and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.” 15
3. This subject should inspire us with adoring views of God’s glorious majesty, and a fixed trust in his wise and perfect government.
How is the greatness and glorious supremacy of God exalted in this view! How absolutely independent! What wisdom in all his moral government! How infinitely exalted above all creatures! He makes his enemies fulfill his purposes, even in their acts of rebellion; and everything conduce to the greatest possible good of his system.
Do we reverence the majesty of princes, and court the favour of those raised but a little above us in wealth or power? Do we fear the frowns of the great—admire the wisdom of the learned—applaud the deeds of the mighty; and contemplate, with wonder, the history of powerful nations, or the achievements of worthy and renowned men? But what are all these? Nothing, and less than nothing. In the light of divine perfection, all created excellency utterly vanishes.
What a privilege is it, my brethren, to live under the government of such a great and good being, whose is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever! We but quarrel with our own happiness in not choosing to be wholly and always dependent upon him, and cheerfully submissive to his will, in all the duties and sufferings he appoints us. A clearer view of the great plan of infinite wisdom would overwhelm us with shame, for having ever exercised the least opposition to his government, or indulged the slightest murmur under any of his dealings. “Man was not made to censure, but adore.” Humility, submission and obedience are the great points of human wisdom. To fear God and keep his commandments, is the whole duty of man. 16 Let us then be humble and believing; and amidst all our national alarms and fears, let us still rejoice in the security of the church. This is a great comfort to the pious mind. Let us, then, resign ourselves, unreservedly, to a power so munificently employed; and trust, with implicit confidence, in a wisdom and goodness so watchful, so active, so unwearied in our behalf.
4. By this subject, we are taught the true spirit of government—its foundation, principle and end. These, in all legitimate governments, are uniform, through all the grades of moral beings; from human authorities, up to the throne of uncreated majesty. “Be ye perfect, as your Father who is in heaven is perfect,” 17 is the authoritative language of Emmanuel. The character of God being the standard of moral virtue, and of human perfection, his government, the medium by which it is displayed, is therefore the perfect pattern, and unerring standard of all HUMAN GOVERNMENTS. Though subordinate and limited in their powers, yet, in relation to the proper objects of their institution, they must be the same in kind with the great original, from which they emanate. They must move and act by the same benevolent principle, and be directed to the same ultimate end.
For the preservation of order, peace and happiness in human society, God, in his great goodness, hath instituted civil government, and seen fit to depute a small portion of his authority to civil rulers; empowering them, by the force of salutary laws, to protect and avenge the innocent—to enforce commutative justice—to defend the weak—to restrain the licentious, and to punish crimes against the interests of society. Human governments, hen, form so many several parts of the divine government. They are distinguished from it, but as they are administered through the instrumentality of men. ALL IS THE GOERNMENT OF GOD—for the kingdom, power and glory are his forever. By him kings reign, and princes decree justice. 18
With what reason or propriety, then, is the principle professed, and even by some contended for, that between religion and government there exists no connection?—yea, that they are severally contaminated by a mutual touch; and the influence of each is hostile and baneful to the interests of the other? Can a man believe his Bible, and subscribe to a doctrine so absurd? The reverse of it is truth, and the deeper our researches in this subject, the deeper will be our conviction. It is separating what God hath joined together, and bidding defiance to reason and experience, as well as to scripture. It is separating man from his Maker—dismembering the government of God, and exalting the “little, brief authority” of an aspiring worm, paramount to the throne of the King Eternal.
In the holy scriptures, we find princes and civil magistrates actually called gods; 19 and it is for this reason, because human authority is a shadow of the divine; and civil rulers are the vicegerents of God, commissioned to rule for him, and execute his will. With this argument, Paul enforces the duty of obedience to civil magistrates; on the ground, that human government is a divine ordinance, and earthly rulers are commissioned and empowered by the King of heaven. The instruction of inspired truth upon this subject is very express. Thus runs the charter of human governments—establishing their high authority—defining their legitimate powers—pointing out the true policy of their administration, and declaring the benevolent end of their institution:--
THE POWERS THAT BE ARE ORDAINED OF GOD. RULERS ARE NOT A TERROR TO GOOD WORKS, BUT TO THE EVIL. HE IS THE MINISTER OF GOD TO THEE FOR GOOD. HE BEARETH NOT THE SWORD IN VAIN, FOR HE IS THE MINISTER OF GOD, A REVENGER TO EXECUTE WRATH UPON HIM THAT DOETH EVIL. 20
Three important points are here established. First, That civil rulers are commissioned of God, and act by an authority delegated from him. Secondly, That impartial justice, truth and equity must form the spirit of their laws, and the policy of their administration. Thirdly, that the highest good of community, the general happiness, peace and prosperity of the state or nation, must be the great object and end of all human governments.
In perfect accordance with these principles was the solemn charge, which Moses, and after him Jehoshaphat, gave to the constituted authorities of Israel: “Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment—ye shall hear the small as well as the great—ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s.” Deut. i. 15. 16. “And he said to the judges, take heed what ye do, for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment.” 2 Chron. xix. 6.
Wisdom, power and goodness, the great principles of perfect sovereignty, so transcendently displayed in the government of Him who ruleth over all, are absolutely necessary to the perfection and proper ends of human governments, in all their constitutional forms, and in all their varied modes of administration. It is only through the deficiency of one, or some, or all of these, that any government ever fails of answering the highest and best end—the promotion and security of the general good.
If wisdom be wanting, the measures of government, however well intended, and however faithfully executed, yet being laid in ignorance and folly, must prove abortive, and fail of their end.—If goodness were wanting, wisdom would be but craft and cunning, and power degenerate into furious and arbitrary might. If wisdom and goodness both were extinct, government would be dreadful in proportion to its power. It would be the most frightful despotism; and directed to no other end than the misery and ruin of its subjects.
Without power, government would be but a name. The best laws would be unexecuted. Wisdom and goodness would be exercised in vain, and operate to no end. In the absence of them all, government has no existence. But these three united constitute the perfection of government, and exclude the possibility of tyranny and oppression.
The object of the divine government, as we have seen, is the greatest general good. This must be the object of human governments. Real philanthropy, enlarged, disinterested, diffusive benevolence, is the only genuine patriotism. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, is the true spirit of all free and happy governments among men; whether administered by one, by few, or by many;--by an hereditary monarch—by a diet of nobles—by a representative assembly chosen by the people; or, by a mixed government of either two or all of these combined. Wisdom, public spirit, uprightness and integrity are the indispensible qualifications of civil rulers. This we know from the highest authority. It is not a dictate of human philosophy only, but the injunction of divine revelation: “Take ye wise men and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.” Deut. i. 13. “Moreover, thou shalt provide, out of all the people, able men, such as fear God; men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” Exodus xviii. 21.
These plain passages, to every believer in divine revelation, must place the matter out of all doubt; and set the following points of political wisdom in the clearest light:
First, That legislators, rulers and civil magistrates must be men of sound heads and clear understandings—of known characters as men of talents, political wisdom and integrity: known among your tribes; thou shalt provide able men,” &c. Let them be native, free born citizens, nursed in the lap of their parent country—bred in the principles, habits and feelings of freemen, and well able to distinguish liberty from licentiousness, and the government of laws from the reign of tyranny and terror.—Again, “Take ye wise men, and understanding—provide out of all the people able men,”&c.; men well versed in the science of government, and understanding the true interests of the publick; not upstart pretenders, visionary theorists and projectors, strutting upon the stilts of philosophy, and swelling with the wisdom of Solon, while ignorant of the alphabet of legislation and government.
Secondly. From the same authority we learn, that civil rulers must be men who fear God—men who are the servants of the Most High—obedient subjects of the divine government, and devoted to the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom.
The fear of God is the principle of religion in the heart; and “he that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” 21 Civil rulers, therefore, no less than the people over whom they rule, must feel themselves subjects of the universal government of God. They must recognize their allegiance and accountability to Him, under whom they hold their commissions, and take all their directions in duty from his word. In fine, they must be men of pure morals—men of virtuous character—men of real religion. Such only are qualified, in the several offices of civil authority, to co-operate with the infinite benevolence of their Creator, to the great and important ends of his government. Such only are fit instruments to be the ministers of God for good to his people. They who fear not God will not regard man. They will hold the divine authority and human happiness in equal contempt: and as vainly may we expect, from such rulers, the fruits of benevolence in the publick good, as to gather figs from thistles, or grapes from the noxious bramble. Human experience has ever verified that maxim of divine wisdom, “When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule the people mourn.” 22
Thirdly. Civil rulers must be “men of truth.” They must not only walk humbly with God, but deal justly with men. They must possess that noble elevation of sentiment, that incorruptible integrity of soul, which is incapable of descending to the vile electioneering arts of intrigue and slander, misrepresentation and falsehood, to effect the objects of their own or others’ ambition. Let them be no fawning Absaloms—no cringing, time-serving office seekers, nor brawling professors of their exclusive love for the people.
Truth is the basis of every real excellence. It is the criterion of all moral and political worth. Civil rulers, therefore, must be sincere, and not pretended patriots—honest men, and not deceivers of the public; disguising their real views and motives, veiling their weak or wicked measures under false and specious pretexts—thus prostituting their talents, and sacrificing their integrity, their conscience and their country at the shrine of popularity. The administrators of government should never fear the truth—never fear to avow, in a plain and open manner, the real objects of their legislation and administration; but manfully meet their full share of responsibility; and not, by evading arts, meanly seek to cast off the odium of their own errors upon men more righteous than themselves.
Fourthly. Civil rulers must be men “hating covetousness.” Though the character is here delineated indirectly, and as it were, in a negative form; yet it is expressive of distinguishing and positive traits; and men of enlarged views, liberal sentiments and publick spirit, may be seen sitting for the picture.
The cupidity of hungry demagogues, scrambling for the loaves and fishes of office, is in nothing more distinctively marked, than in their flattering or censuring the conduct of men in power, according as they may apprehend the one or the other the more favourable to their views. Selfishness, not patriotism, is the concealed spirit which moves them;--their own honour and emolument are the real and sole objects of their aim. But those, possessing the qualifications of good rulers, are of a more excellent spirit. They are men of a disinterested character—men hating covetousness—men who will subordinate their own personal honour, wealth and aggrandizement to the publick good, and point, with undeviating aim, all their counsels, exertions and official duties to this one great end.
We have now delineated, by a comparison of opposites, the scriptural character of good civil rulers, who fill their office with duty and usefulness, and are publick blessings to their people. The character is drawn by divine wisdom, in the shortest terms, and yet it is full and complete. They must be provided or selected out of all the people—men of known wisdom and understanding—such as fear God—men of truth, and hating covetousness. These are the essential characteristics of good civil rulers. These, blessed be God, we and our fathers, the favoured sons of Connecticut, have known and realized by the happy experience of almost two centuries. To the divine goodness our warmest thanks are due. God hath never given us babes to be our princes, nor children, nor wicked men to rule over us; but hath ever given us our “judges, as at the first, and our counselors, as at the beginning;” 23 men, who have been his ministers for good to the people. This, from the infancy of our highly favoured republic, has been the distinguished character of our political fathers, who have successively filled, adorned and dignified the chair of state. They have been the chariots of our Israel, and the horsemen thereof. In this venerable catalogue, those men of God, the fathers and founders of our Commonwealth, Haynes, Winthrop and Saltonstal, and in later days, our illustrious Trumbulls, hold an eminent rank, and will ever occupy distinguished pages in the history of our country.
To the list of our departed worthies, we have now to subjoin the name of our late excellent and much lamented chief magistrate, Roger Griswold. The incurable malady, which, at our last anniversary, deprived us of his presence, and the legislature of his aid, has since, alas! terminated his useful life, and he now sleeps with his fathers.
After the striking testimony of respect to his memory, already borne by this honourable legislature, 24 and his correct and able funeral eulogium, now in the hands of the publick, it becomes me, I am sensible, on this subject, to be concise. Yet duty forbids me to be wholly silent. Justice to my own feelings—to the feelings of a bereaved publick, and to the memory of distinguished merit, demands, at least, the tribute of a—tear. The career of his publick services will furnish an interesting theme to future biographers, and to them it is left. His general character, however, by which he justly stood so highly respected and endeared, may be briefly drawn, in a few well known and distinctive traits.
In private life he was the accomplished gentleman, the man of science, the amiable friend, the kind and courteous neighbour, the affectionate parent, the tender husband, and the agreeable companion in every relation. In his publick walks, he was the thorough investigator of truth, the able statesman, the luminous speaker, the patriotic legislator, the discerning and upright judge, and the faithful, firm and independent magistrate.
While, with sentiments of affection and gratitude, we weep over his grave, and the tears for our beloved Trumbull, scarcely dried, are now caused to flow afresh for his worthy successor—let us bow, in humble submission, to the holy will of the supreme disposer, whose awful hand, in the short period of three years, 25 hath twice bereaved us of our chief magistrate. Let us penitently acknowledge his righteous chastisement, and bless him for his goodness, in raising up and qualifying, with such eminent talents for public usefulness, this distinguished fellow citizen, the faithful and able defender of our constitutional rights. With a peculiar sensibility, let us recognize his firm and distinguished conduct, in a late crisis of our national affairs, the most trying, interesting and eventful. 26 Thanks to heaven, that, at the first bursting of the storm, a Griswold stood at the helm; and undaunted at the shock which tried men’s souls, calmly guided, with his dying hands, our little bark, steady, straight and safe from all rocks and shallows, in its true constitutional course. His talents and firmness were tried and found equal to the emergence. Thus, like the clear, unclouded sun, he shone the brightest in his setting rays; and by the last act of his public life, he crowned the lofty climax of his well earned fame.
May the mantle of our departed Griswold, and his illustrious predecessors, descend to their successors; and their spirit be transmitted down to the latest posterity, through the venerable legislators, judges, and ruling fathers of our state.
5. Our subject leads us to reflect, that a good civil government is one of the greatest earthly blessings. It is to be enjoyed, with thankfulness to the great giver; and carefully preserved and transmitted, as the richest bequest to posterity.
The government, under which a people live, is so interwoven with their happiness, that it is inconceivable, how they can be prosperous, or happy, if this be evil. It would, therefore, be an unpardonable breach of duty, on this day, not to recognize so great a blessing.
Our form of national government originated from men of tried integrity and experience; having a full knowledge of the situation and peculiar wants of every portion of the country; and all the various forms of civil government on earth, with their evils and benefits, excellencies and defects; together with the experience of all preceding ages, fully before them. Possessing these advantages, they were enabled to construct an exceedingly wise and happy form of civil government. And no nation, it may be affirmed, ever experienced greater prosperity, than what we have enjoyed, under its operation and influence.
But this blessing is to be guarded with assiduous care, and preserved by every requisite means. Experience enforces this duty upon us. Public, as well as private, blessings are liable to be taken from us, and lost. The best human governments are imperfect. They are subject to abuse. They are formed, and they are administered, by frail, selfish and fallible agents. Under the wisest form of government, we have suffered various and grievous oppressions. In the obstinate pursuit of a strange and infatuated policy, our country has, for years, groaned under a series of privations and distresses; till, at length, we are plunged into an offensive war, with one of the most powerful nations of Europe, and under circumstances, in which national ruin is staring us in the face. We have, therefore, abundant reason to be alarmed with our danger—to be active in applying the means of safety; and to mingle fervent supplications of thanksgiving and praise.
6. We have, all of us, my fellow citizens, individually, and as a people, a special interest in this subject. It points its instruction to everyone, and speaks in loud and commanding accents. Let us hear the voice of wisdom, and attend to the things of our peace.
Is religion so necessary to the character of good civil rulers?—such a high and important qualification, for men in public authority, and called to administer the government of the state? Is it less so, to those who are the subjects of civil government, and in the walks of private life? No—but, if possible, the more necessary and important; as it is the proximate cause, and the necessary means of the other. For, in a free and elective government, where the people are the source of power, and have, either directly or indirectly, all the gifts o civil office, in their hands, the character of rulers will ever be formed by that of their constituents. They will be of the same moral stamp,--the very “image and superscription” of the people by whom they are elected. Unless, therefore, we are a religious people, it is vain to hope for the blessing of religious rulers. A corrupt spring will never send forth sweet waters; nor can the stream rise higher than its source. Let the great body of the people, or the majority of them, become wicked and unprincipled, and “the post of honour is”, at once, “a private station.” The excellent of the earth, if such may be found, men who fear God, and hate covetousness, will not be the public favourites, nor even candidates for office. They will be thrust into the background, and wholly overlooked. From the mutual relation between rulers and subjects, this truth results, as an invariable maxim, that a government will be wise and prosperous, according to the purity of the fountain from which it emanates. The connection is indissoluble, between a united and virtuous people, and the government of wise and faithful rulers. Both are great public blessings, but they cannot exist apart. The former is a necessary means of the other. The character of an elective government will ever be derived from that of its constituents; and its operation and success will be accordingly. Indeed, it is not within the reach of the wisest laws—it is utterly beyond the power and skill of the best civil rulers, to make a wicked people, a happy people; or to do them good, any further, than they may have influence to change the public character: for they are morally incapable of the blessings of any government, either human or divine. In the same proportion, therefore, in which, as a people, we relax in virtue, and the public character becomes vicious, is our government endangered.
The diffusion of general knowledge—the improvement of those means calculated to promote religious order and peace—the encouragement of schools, the due observation of the Sabbath, the support of the gospel ministry, and the public worship of God: and the counteracting of those corrupt principles, which weaken the sense of moral obligation, break the dearest ties of human life, and destroy the faith of an eternal retribution: these must be considered as things the most interesting to the public welfare. They essentially affect the main spring of our government. These are at the root. They form the character of the people, on whose shoulders the government rests.
While on this branch of the subject, I must beg the indulgence of a more particular attention to a certain moral duty of incalculable moment; I mean, the strict and religious observance of the day of holy rest. The idea has already been suggested, but I know not how to pass it with only a cursory hint; though a volume would scarce suffice to set forth its connection with the best interests of society; and trace all its important bearings upon the temporal and eternal welfare of men. No command in the Decalogue is enforced with more alluring, or more awful sanctions: there is not a duty inscribed upon the pages of inspiration, to which the promise of national blessings, and the threatening of national evils are so frequently, and so solemnly annexed, as to that divine precept, Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Among the multiplied proofs of this truth, I would only point you to that memorable passage, in the 17th chapter of Jeremiah’s prophecy: “Thus saith the Lord, take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but hallow the Sabbath day, to do no work therein, then shall there enter into the gates of this city, kings and princes, sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots, and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and this city shall remain forever.” That is, the court, the city, and the country shall flourish; enjoying all the rich and valuable blessings of national peace and prosperity. “But, if ye will not hearken unto me, to hallow the Sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem, on the Sabbath day, then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.” A threatening which was literally fulfilled, and which this very prophet lived to see and lament.
Observe, therefore, how necessary it is to sanctify the Sabbath, if we desire the favour of God, and the prosperity of our country. This duty is equally required of all classes of men. No burdens are to be borne, no common work to be done, no laboring, travelling, carrying out, or fetching in, except, in case of absolute necessity. We see what stress God lays upon this duty. He charges the neglect of it, as a crime which will bring ruin upon the state.—The religious observation of the Sabbath will support all the other branches of religion. It will strengthen and invigorate the principle of holy obedience. It will water every moral, and every Christian virtue at the root, and render them flourishing and fruitful. Indeed, there can be neither religion, nor morality without it. Therefore, let us take heed to ourselves. Great caution is needful, in a degenerate day, amidst so many bad examples, and when actually suffering, by war and pestilence, the awful judgments of heaven for this very sin. They, who merely to save time, on working days, contrive to take journeys, to visit their friends, or follow their business, on the Sabbath; and by so doing, deprive themselves of religious advantages; do, at least (however their thoughts may be employed) set a bad example to others and encourage them to profane the Sabbath. All, who indulge in such practices, should seriously attend to this awful admonition of heaven. And how they can imagine such a conduct consistent with the divine authority and law, with the design of the Sabbath—the solemnity of a Christian profession, or even with seeking the true interests of their country, is very astonishing. How they can vindicate it, before him, who will give to every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings, they would do well to consider.
When we reflect on the degenerated state of our national morals, and consider the fickle and fluctuating disposition of people, with regard to the necessary means of public strength and happiness, the long continued existence of our government is rather an object of trembling hope, than of confident expectation. We have, indeed, the means of perpetuating the government of our choice; but the danger is in our abusing these means—in our losing sight of that virtue and religion, the influence of which is absolutely necessary to the long, or real existence of any free government.
Besides, a government like ours, more than many others not so free and good, opens a wider door for the exercise of unprincipled ambition, and for the rage of party animosities. By the frequent elections 27 to the great national offices, rivalries will be excited, and party spirit, once in action, has no sufficient time to die. The flame is increased, and the difference of opinion widened. It is diffused through every vein, and effects every limb and joint of the great body politick. This has been our great political disease; and too true it is, that the most proper, and only efficacious remedy has been overlooked and unapplied. A spirit of conciliation, of mutual charity and condescension has been greatly wanting, among even the honest and well meaning of both parties. “Man is man;”—a composition of ignorance, weakness and vanity. Human conduct is ever marked with imperfection and error; and the best cause is often injured by improper motives, means and management.—These things, in their nature and tendency, are great evils. In their progress, they threaten, and in their issue, will destroy a republican government.
Every person, acquainted with the history of nations, knows that factions have always been the bane of free governments. And when we consider the unhappy divisions in our country, and the unyielding spirit which accompanies them, what is the ground of our hope? What, the pleasing prospect of transmitting the blessings of freedom and good government to our children?—Alas! all earthly enjoyments are empoisoned with sin. All human affairs are mutable and transitory. The constitution of bodies politic, no less than that of the human frame, is liable to infirmity, disease and death. Kingdoms and States embosom the seeds of dissolution, implanted in the moral nature of man. They rise and fall, in succession, like day and night. They have their morning, their rise, their meridian, their decline, and their setting sun. But, the GOVERNMENT OF GOD shall stand. The kingdom, power and glory are his forever, and all his blessed purposes shall be accomplished. Here is the only stable ground of hope, of comfort, and of confidence, in all the darksome scenes and prospects of human woe. This is the key note in the gospel harmony; this, the chord which ever vibrates in unison with good man’s heart.
Public virtue, then, I resume, is the foundation, and the very corner stone of every free government. It cannot exist without it. Let the religious principle become extinct, in the minds of the commonalty; so that the influence of public good, and the restraints of conscience shall cease to operate; and the republican institution is sapped at the foundation; the best laws will be totally inefficient, republican government will be but a name, and that too, of short continuance. As a natural consequence, it will tumble, like a rock from the precipice; and with it drag down, in one common ruin, the last remains of liberty, and every privilege and comfort, which render life a blessing. It will, it must end in despotism. In such a state, or nation, nothing but a system of terror, propelled by the strong arm of physical power, can impose the necessary restraints, and keep the heavy, iron bound wheels of government in motion. These, grating harsh thunder, as they roll, like those of the horrid car of Juggernaut, 28 will be smeared with the blood of wretched victims, crushed beneath their ponderous pressure. Injustice, oppression and cruelty are the mild, kindred virtues associated in the throne of despotic power. These are the garlands which deck the grisly brow of the Moloch of Tyranny.
Let it, then, be received, as an axiom in politics; let it be engraven upon our hearts, as with the point of a diamond; that Religion is the only sure foundation of a free and happy government. It is the great palladium of all our natural and social rights. Indeed, the connection between time and eternity is not more near and certain, than that between a wicked, demoralized state of community, and the government of tyranny.
With this truth blazing before us, can we pause, and reflect for a moment, without the mingled emotions of wonder and regret; that that public instrument, which guarantees our political rights of freedom and independence—our Constitution of national government, framed by such an august, learned and able body of men; formally adopted by the solemn resolution of each state; and justly admired and celebrated for its consummate political wisdom; has not the impress of religion upon it, not the smallest recognition of the government, or the being of God, or of the dependence and accountability of man. Be astonished, O earth!—Nothing, by which a foreigner might with certainty decide, whether we believe in the one true God, or in any God; whether we are a nation of Christians, or—But, I forbear. The subject is too delicate, to say more; and it is too interesting, to have said less. I leave it, with this single reflection, whether, if God be not in the camp, we have not reason to tremble for the ark?
I return from the digression, and repeat the sentiment, Religion is the only sure foundation of human government. Religious people are the good members of society. They who, in heart and life, acknowledge their allegiance to the King of heaven, are the best subjects, and the best supporters of civil authority; and they only are qualified to enjoy the permanent blessings of a free and equal government. Benevolence is the bond of social union, and the source of public peace and happiness. This holy principle cements all the natural and social relations. It makes good men, and good citizens. It strengthens, endears and sweetens all the tender charities of life. It unites the man to his neighbour, the Christian to his brother, and the creature to his God. Where there is this unity of sentiment and affection, there is ever unity of sentiment and affection, there is ever unity of interest and enjoyment. But a house divided against itself cannot stand. A building, composed of jarring and heterogeneous materials, like the visionary image of Nebuchadnezzar, tends to dissolution. The iron and the clay will never cement—never form a solid and lasting union; but, sooner or later, will tumble into ruin. That member of society, who is void of social and benevolent affection, is both a troublesome and disgraceful member. Like a round stone, in the composition of a great building, he can fit no place, in the whole wall. He touches his neighbours, but at points, and every touch is a wound. He mars the beauty, destroys the uniformity, and weakens the strength of the whole building. In a society, in a state, or nation, composed of such member, adieu to order, to friendship, and to peace.
Be cautioned then, my fellow citizens against the demon of party spirit; that spirit which casts the publick good into the background; and without any regard to the national interest, seeks, exclusively, the interests and the triumphs of a party. This is destructive to all free governments. It is the spirit of disunion, and tends to all evil. It violates the social compact, beats down the restraints of vice and immorality, tramples upon the most sacred obligations, sports with the dearest rights of society; and is rebellion against all governments, human and divine. Alas! The bright morning of our national glory, so calm, cool, peaceful and prosperous; while our GREAT AND GOOD FATHER lived, to protect and bless his country; this evil spirit has, thus quickly, overcast with clouds of darkness, greeted with the thunder of war, and encrimsoned with a deluge of blood.
The necessity of union cannot be too frequently impressed, nor its importance too highly appreciated. Bankruptcies incurred have often been retrieved;--ships lost can be replaced; Moscow, burnt to ashes may be rebuilt; but “union lost is seldom regained; and freedom once flown is gone forever.”
Our present situation imperiously requires unanimity, wisdom, firmness and energy among the people. In this day of darkness, distress and danger, in which our liberty, our independence, our national existence, our everything dear and valuable, on this side heaven, are at stake—there should be but one public sentiment—but one pulse should beat—one voice be heard; and one soul animate and inspire the whole body politic. If united and firm, we may still hope. If divided, we shall fall by our own hands, and incur the guilt of national suicide.
Pardon my warmth on this subject—it is impossible for me to be cold. It is the language of my heart, and I cannot suppress it. It is, however, by no means, intended to give offence to anyone; unless the truth shall offend; and the short lived and honourable reproach of such offences, I am willing to bear. They, whose views, either of religion, or government, do not exactly coincide with my own, will do me the justice to believe, that I mean not to wound their feelings, and that I am as honest in maintaining my opinions, as they can be in theirs; and that a sense of duty only, in the public station I hold under God, impels me, on this occasion, thus freely to declare them. I do declare myself feelingly alive to the public danger. I tremble in every nerve for the honour and safety of my country; and the awful fate which awaits our divided situation and our weak and distracted counsels. The title of United States, applied to a disunited people, is a burlesque and reproach. It is high time for the rage of political controversy to cease, or soon—I shudder at the thought—the sword may be drawn, which will be sheathed in brother’s bosoms. Let union at home and peace with the world, be the countersign with every class of citizens; the rallying watch-word among all the sons of freedom, the friends of their country and of mankind. Away, then, with all spirit of party dissension; its paltry objects and pernicious views; and away with that tame, temporizing spirit of dastardly union, which yields, and yields, and yields to be trodden and crushed to death, under the proud foot, which is elevated but to destroy. Let our union, like the wisdom from above, be first PURE, then PEACEABLE, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 29 Our interests, fellow-citizens, are one, and why should not our hearts and our exertions be united? Let us join hands in the common cause, to promote the interests and achieve the salvation of our dear and suffering country.
Respected Legislators. In these principles and duties, you will readily recognize your own immediate and individual concernment. To you, they are especially interesting. Called by the suffrages of your country, to the high duties of legislation, under God, the administrators of our free and happy government; to you, we look up, as the guardians and protectors of our dearest rights. The duties of your station, ever the most important to the public, the present unhappy situation of our country renders the most difficult and arduous to yourselves. To “stem the torrent of a downward age”—to preserve the invaluable institutions of our pious ancestors—to ward off the threatening evils of a misguided policy, and to renew the happy scene of national peace and prosperity, which once we enjoyed, require the combined exertion of all your talents, wisdom, prudence and patriotism. On those halcyon days, we now look back with regret, and sighing exclaim. Oh, that we were s in months past, as in the days when God preserved us, when his candle shined upon our head; as we were in the days of our youth, when the Almighty was yet with us. 30
At no time, has our sovereignty, as a state, been more endangered, nor appeared more interesting to our own and our country’s happiness. You are called, therefore, fellow-citizens, to act your part, in a trying and difficult day. Our lot is cast in a perilous period. We have indeed fallen upon the worst of times, and therefore need the best of men at the helm; for without skillful and faithful pilots, on such a stormy sea, our national shipwreck is near and certain. But amidst all the existing evils and impending dangers, which assail our present peace, and darken our national prospects, faint not, nor be discouraged; be firm and undaunted, and never despair of the commonwealth. Truth is powerful and will prevail. The scales of imposition are falling from the eyes of ignorance. The light is beginning to penetrate the dark recesses of obstinate blindness and error—and after our long and dreary night, the rising sun will again appear, and pour the reviving beams of prosperity and peace. Remember that the Lord reigns, and the Most High is the governor among the nations. 31 The kingdom, power and glory are his forever. Be strong in the Lord, and trust in the God of your fathers. His counsel shall stand. His government is his own, it is perfect, it is supreme, it is universal, it is everlasting. Look to that as the grand source and perfect standard of all human authority. Thence derive all your directions in duty, all your wisdom and fortitude, all your support and encouragement. Then shall you be the ministers of God, for good to his people; and generations, yet unborn, shall arise and call you blessed.
Reverend Fathers and Brethren. May our hearts be warmed with renewed zeal, in the great duties of the holy ministry, and our motto be, that of our divine Master, “I must work while it is day.” The time is short—our departure is at hand. Soon will the night of death overtake us, and close our working season for ever. Soon must we be individually called, to give an account of our stewardship, and to meet our people at the bar of God. Let us be fired with a noble emulation to finish well this short life of labour and trial. Let nothing weaken our resolutions, nor paralyze our exertions; neither let us count our lives dear to ourselves, so that we may finish our course with joy, and the ministry which we have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. Since the last anniversary election, no less than eight 32 of our dear brethren, our respected fathers and fellow labourers, in this state, have closed their earthly course, and given their final account. An unusual and awful mortality! Great is the publick loss in the removal of so many faithful ministers of Jesus. Our Zion mourns. Her watchmen weep. They vent their grief and their consolation too, in the feeling language of the Psalmist,
“Spare us, O Lord, aloud we pray,
Nor let our sun go down at noon;
Thy years are one eternal day,
And must thy children die so soon?
Yet, in the midst of death and grief,
This thought our sorrow shall assuage;
Our Father and our Saviour live,
Christ is the same in every age.”
For the kingdom, and the power and the glory are his forever. Under the influence of such and so many solemn warnings, Oh, let us be faithful to the interests of souls—faithful to the church of the Redeemer, which he hath bought with his blood—faithful to our country and to our God.
Men, brethren and fathers, rulers and citizens, ministers and people of every class, let me beseech you to reflect seriously upon this interesting subject—to divest yourselves of all party feelings and prejudices; and candidly inquire into the real situation, and the true interests of our country.
Our present happy form of government may survive these decaying limbs of ours; for we must soon sleep with our fathers: yet, the most of us have children whom we love, to leave behind us; and who is there, in all this numerous assembly, so base, as to be willing to leave them exposed to the dreadful effects of party rage and oppression? Who is there, sunk so far below the insensibility of a savage, as to feel indifferent towards the fate of posterity; and not earnestly wish to leave, to them, the same blessings, of civil and religious liberty, which, through the mercy of God, we have received from our ancestors, as the fruit of their patriotism, their piety, their prayers, and their blood?
Remember that “righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is the reproach of any people;”—that it is equally the duty of rulers and citizens, to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. This is the sum of all religion. This is the true spirit of a free government. This is a duty incumbent on every citizen. If, therefore, we desire the prosperity of our country; if the salvation of our immortal souls, we must live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.
Under a deep impression of this solemn truth, of our dependence on God, our awful accountability, and our high and immortal destination—let us unitedly pray, Our Father, who art in heaven, of thine infinite mercy, through Jesus Christ, vouchsafe to us and our dear posterity, all the blessings of life, liberty, peace, religion and government; the comforts of time and the happiness of eternity; for thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.
1. Rom. xi. 33. (Return)
2. Rom. xi. 34, 35. (Return)
3. Prov. xvi. 4. (Return)
4. Rev. iv. 11. (Return)
5. Psalm ciii. 19. (Return)
6. Eph. iv. 6. (Return)
7. Isaiah xlv. 7. (Return)
8. Matthew xix. 26., 1 Tim. i. 17. Matthew xix. 17. (Return)
9. Psalm cxlv. 13. (Return)
10. Isaiah xxviii. 29. (Return)
11. Daniel iv. 35. (Return)
12. Isaiah vi. 3. (Return)
13. Psalms ii. 6. And lxxxvii. 3. (Return)
14. Isaiah lx. 1, 3. (Return)
15. Dan. vii. 27. (Return)
16. Eccl. (Return)
17. Matthew v. 48. (Return)
18. Prov. viii. 15. (Return)
19. Exodus xxii. 28., Psalms lxxxii 1. 6. And cxxxviii. 1., John x. 34. (Return)
20. Rom. 13. (Return)
21. 2 Samuel xxiii. 3. (Return)
22. Prov. xxix. 2. (Return)
23. Isaiah i. 25. (Return)
24. Governor Griswold died at Norwich, while the legislature were in session at New-Haven. Upon the news of his death, a committee of both houses was appointed, to attend his interment. A solemn funeral service was also attended by the General Assembly, in which, by their appointment, the Hon. David Daggett, Esq. pronounced an eulogium upon his character. The assembly also resolved to wear badges of mourning for thirty days. (Return)
25. Governor Trumbull died August 7th, 1809—and Gov. Griswold October 25th, 1812. (Return)
26. See the printed documents of the legislature, published at their special session in New-Haven, in August last; detailing the correspondence of our state executive with Gen. Dearborn, and the Secretary of War, relating to the subject of calling into actual service, in the present war, at the command of the President of the Union, a certain portion of the militia of this state. (Return)
27. What precise term of civil office is the most wise and beneficial, is a desideratum in politics, and a point in which the most enlightened republican statesmen are far from being agreed. Witness the great diversity of practice adopted by the constitutions of the several state governments, respecting the period of their elections. Frequent elections are unquestionably6, most congenial with the republican spirit, and most favourable to the liberties of the people: and yet it must be acknowledged, that there are mischiefs connected with either extreme. In the above observations, therefore, I pretend not to act the part of a Censor, nor even to hazard an opinion; but simply to state facts, and trace effects to their true cause. Perhaps, the evil complained of, party spirit, is an unavoidable appendage of a free government: arising from the weakness and imperfection of human nature: and may always be expected to exist, and be, more or less operative, under every republican institution; until the religious principle has a more general, and powerful influence; or, in other words, until men are more disposed to conduct like rational creatures, and become fitter subjects for the enjoyment of rational liberty. (Return)
28. See Dr. Buchanan’s Christian researches in Asia. (Return)
29. James iii. 17. (Return)
30. Job xxix. 2, 3, 4, 5. (Return)
31. Psalm xxii. 28. (Return)
32. Rev. Messrs. Timothy Pitkin, of Farmington; George Colton, Bolton; Benjamin Wildman, Southbury; James Dana, D. D., New-Haven; Joseph W. Crossman, Salisbury; Asahel Hooker, Norwich; Noah Benedict, Woodbury; Samuel Camp, Ridgefield. (Return)