Nathaniel Thayer (1769-1840) graduated from Harvard in 1789. He was a pastor in Wilkeshare, PA and in Lancaster, MA (1795-1840). The following election sermon was preached by Thayer in Massachusetts on May 28, 1823.
HIS EXCELLENCY JOHN BROOKS, ESQ.
HIS HONOR WILLIAM PHILLIPS, ESQ.
THE HONORABLE COUNCIL,
AND THE TWO HOUSES, COMPOSING THE
LEGISLATURE OF MASSACHUSETTS,
MAY 28, 1823.
By Nathaniel Thayer, D. D.
MINISTER OF LANCASTER.
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS.
IN SENATE, MAY 29, 1823.
Ordered, That the Hon. Messrs. Adams, Gardner, and Tufts, be a Committee to wait upon the Rev. Nathaniel Thayer, D. D. and in the name of the Senate, to thank him for the Sermon, by him delivered before His Excellency the Governor, His Honor the Lieutenant Governor, the Honorable Council, and both branches of the Legislature; and to request a copy thereof for the press.
PAUL WILLARD, Clerk.
DEUTERONOMY…CHAP. XXVI., VERSE XIX.
And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in the name, and in honor; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as he hath spoken.
It is appropriate duty of an assembly of Christian patriots, to meditate the condition and destiny of their country. They will anxiously inquire after the means, which will extend and perpetuate its honor, peace, prosperity, and happiness. From a variety of sources they may derive aid in this review. They will weigh the probable result of the form of civil government, which is adopted. They will consider the natural tendency of the degree of encouragement given to learning. Their hope will be measured by the evidence which exists of the faithful application of a correct system of morals and religion. They will be assisted in forming a judgment by the veneration which is paid to Christian ordinances. They will take into the account the character of the rulers, the course of their policy, the manners of the great, the general taste and habits of society. They will not overlook the estimate which is declared of the sacrifices and services of the founders, friends, and defenders of their nation. They will survey the history of other countries and kingdoms, and from the causes which led to their rise or decline, prosperity or adversity, will learn the reasonable grounds of expectation. They will especially consult the sacred records. From the principles there published, the conditions of national glory or debasement there revealed, they may come to a safe conclusion.
Every community may collect lessons of instruction, encouragement, and warning from the divine communications to ancient Israel. It will be found without variation, that when a purpose is affirmed, promise made, or threatening pronounced, the accomplishment is to depend on an important condition. This condition is at the direction and control of the individuals or people, who are addressed. The instance before us is an illustration. If the Israelites should “perform their solemn vows on the day, that they avouched the Lord to be their God, should walk in his ways, keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and should hearken unto his voice,” which would be in the most comprehensive sense to gain and support the character of a holy people, they might then rely on the promise, that they should be “high above all nations, in praise, and in the name, and in honor.”
Many causes combine to raise the hope, that America is destined by providence to distinction. One of the first efforts of patriotism will be, to ascertain and urge the adoption of a course, which will lead to the highest national honor and happiness.
The attention of this respected auditory is invited to a reference to facts in the situation and prospects of our country, which encourage the expectation, that it may hold a pre-eminent rank amongst civilized and Christian nations; and to a rehearsal of the means, which in the nature of things and by the appointment of heaven, are essential to the attainment of it.
In the history of communities is found a reason for the opinion, that the character and prospects of a people depend in a degree on climate and local situation. The salubrity [fitness] and uniformity of a temperate zone have proved favorable to physical strength and intellectual vigour. Inhabitants of countries, thus located, are happily formed to endure labor; engage in enterprise; secure a reputable subsistence; and perform the responsible duties of social and civil life. When surveying our scenery, our attention is arrested by a wonderful exhibition of river, lakes, and mountains. At these, the partiality of the native citizen leads him to gaze as designed by Him, “who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, meted out heaven with the span, comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance,” as indications of the uncommon grandeur of his country. He will also find much to raise his attachment to it in its remoteness from powerful nations, who, if they have the desire, can with difficulty exert the means for retarding its elevation. There is also some merciful provision, if it be duly regarded, against the rise of envying, jealousies, and evil surmisings in the inhabitants of this favored land. Each section of the territory has some distinguishing excellence. It has either an atmosphere, which is a pledge of general health; a soil, suited to the luxuriant growth of some valuable articles of subsistence, convenience, or comfort; special advantages for the amassing of wealth by agriculture, manufactures, or commerce; liberal provision for extending to the members of every class the benefits of knowledge; or circumstances, which have excited ardour in the investigation of Christian truth and support of religious institutions. We may without reservation and with patriotic pride, adopt the sentiment of a writer, who has with elegance recorded the scenes most interesting to this nation. It is a wonderful fact, that a people inhabiting such an extent of territory, of such a diversity of views and principles in politics and religion, combining so many separate and apparently discordant and jarring interests; and at the same time exhibiting “fewer diversities of character, language, habits, and interests than any empire of similar extent in the world; all this accumulation of happiness and strength would have seemed only a splendid vision, beyond the conception of prophecy.
The natural equality of this people is a source of their most sure and rapid advancement. It is not the design, nor would it be for the growth and prosperity of our republic, to present any insuperable obstacle to the existence of outward, intellectual, or moral distinctions. The great value of these is, that they are not hereditary; that they proceed from the assiduous application of talents, and that in their acquirement are developed all the energies of the human character. So long as the political principles, by which we are professedly guided, remain uncorrupt and in active force, merit and service will form the only title to exaltation and honor. We shall look upon the badge of office as a splendid phantom, if it be gained by hollow professions, a morbid state of the public feeling, and the abandonment of principles, which the experience of ages has proved the only adequate source of individual or general prosperity.
A vast variety of causes operates to the introduction of inequalities in condition and character. Natural talents, education, associations, examples, seasons for exertion, motives to excellence do each conspire to form the difference. Let it be the desire and aim of every lover of his country, to disseminate and preserve in entire activity and influence the principle, that civil distinction shall in no case be the purchase of caprice, honorable descent, party views, local considerations, sinister or ambitious designs. Let it be an avowed maxim, coextensive with our limits and existence as a people, and boldly propagated wherever a correct term of promotion or claim to public confidence may with propriety be urged, that “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, shall only be exalted to any office of emolument, honor, or trust.”
Territorial extent, and the opportunity it gives for all talents to be put in successful requisition, is another fact promising distinction to this nation. Enterprise is often checked, and talents are paralyzed by the intimation and belief, that the field for exertion is limited, that the professions and various employments are so crowded with labourers, that such as are now in preparation for service have little prospect of success. Centuries will probably elapse, before this may be urged to excuse the suspension of a spirit of adventure, or extinguish the hope of finding a field for honorable activity. Let it not be said, because that speck of the country with which we are conversant is occupied, that there is no remaining scene for diligence and usefulness. Shall the Divine cherish the narrow belief, that he cannot to spiritual advantage scatter the incorruptible seed; the Physician, that he will have no opportunity for skillfully arresting the progress of disease; the Lawyer, that he cannot aid in the distributions of law and justice; the Mechanic, that he is unable to subsist by his handiwork; the Citizen, that he can accomplish no object of personal or public utility, but in the centre of a thickly inhabited village, or amidst the refinements and luxuries of a populous city? May the patriotic sentiment find many advocates, that it is greater evidence of original and strong powers, to subdue the untrodden forest, than to till the cultivated field. May the Christian belief be diffused, that he is a fairer candidate for the honors of this world, and the glories of immortality, who shall be a humble instrument of causing the moral wilderness to blossom, than he, who shall contentedly remain an inefficient and dronish incumbent on cultivated society. May it in no instance operate as a hindrance to the growth of this nation, that parental weakness and partiality, or local attachments and prejudices have stifled in our young men a spirit of emigration. May they go, and evince the benefits of their early education, by establishing for the basis of domestic happiness and civil prosperity the principles and institutions, which have hitherto been the honor and security of this people.
All the remaining facts in the situation and prospects of this nation, which are necessary to confirm the hope of pre-eminence, may be comprised in some remarks on the peculiar character of our civil and religious institutions.
The former had their origin under more favorable auspices than those of any other country. There have been governments called free besides our own. Too often were they the fruits of usurpation and conquest, and in them liberty existed only in name. Of no other may it with equal justice be said, that the government is the result of the cool, deliberative wisdom of the native inhabitants, uncontrolled by foreign influence, and oppression at home. In men of superficial judgment, or constitutional despondency, the gloomy and extravagant predictions of the frailty of our political fabric, and the short life of our republic, may be reconciled with the purest patriotism. ON the page of history they have read an unbroken narrative of the premature birth, ephemeral and monstrous growth, convulsive throes, anticipated and awful dissolution of ancient republics. Hence they have hastily concluded, that in no state of things, or period of the world could a collection of moral beings be found, capable of a protracted enjoyment of liberty. They have slightly surveyed and misjudged the broad foundation on which our government rests. The thought has escaped them, that the two massive pillars, learning and religion, which are equal to the support of a civil structure of any dimensions, were raised and consecrated on the first possession of the soil. They have forgotten too, that the original architects were not under the control of inordinate ambition, selfish and mercenary views; not the builders of an edifice, which should simply provide a shelter for themselves and the men of their own generation, but which should be a safe and commodious habitation for their successors of the most distant times. Hurried in forming a judgment by ill-boding apprehensions, they have likewise overlooked, that these were men religiously educated, resolved to jeopardize everything else, that they might remain in quiet possession of liberty of conscience.
No period can be set to the durability of this confederated republic, if the design of the original projection be not perverted. In the establishment of schools and seminaries of learning, and in the erection of temples, the most effectual means were devised for attaching permanency to our civil privileges. While these fountains of knowledge are liberally supplied, these temples saved from destruction, and furnished with a learned and faithful ministry, we have little to fear from the encroachments of despotism. A well informed and religious people are in no danger of losing their liberties.
Still more may be said of our religious institutions, should they retain their primeval character. It is an unprecedented and singular fact in the history of nations, that the first settlers of this had for a paramount motive of their adventure, in search after a resting place, the enjoyment of religious liberty. When about to form a community, they justly believed that a nation without religion could have only a limited existence, and must be in degradation and disgrace. But little inferior to this degradation did they consider the state of the inhabitants of a country, who professed and supported religion, but had in operation means to keep the understanding and conscience in fetters. In accordance with the enthusiasm for religious freedom shown by our ancestors, their descendants, when framing constitutions of government, rested the responsibility of interpreting scripture, and of electing forms of worship, with the subjects.
No enlightened and upright statesman has dared to defend the licentious opinion, that the body politic would be in a healthful and vigorous state, if the right of choosing a mode of worship were treated with general indifference. We do not plead for anything resembling a national religious establishment. Forms of worship and systems of faith, supported and embraced by us, cannot be of a truly Christian character, or accord with the liberty of inquiry and choice, supposed and ensured by the Great Teacher from heaven, but when they are the result of a candid and independent investigation of revealed truth, and are adopted with the deliberate and settled conviction, that they correspond to the general spirit of his Gospel.
We can with difficulty make an exaggerated representation of the value of religious institutions, in their effect on the state and character of communities. Let it be tested by a small corporation. The habitual attendance on the duties of the Sabbath, has a benign influence on the domestic state, social intercourse, ordinary transactions, general manners. It tends to allay the turbulence of passion, liberalize the feelings and sentiments, restrain corrupt propensities, give a regular and moral direction to the whole conduct.
Imagine Christian ordinances to have universal patronage, and you will find a diminution of crimes, a gradual but incessant elevation of the moral taste, an industrious and upright use of all the means of outward prosperity. Should this nation be thus distinguished, you may expect that it will be high above all nations in praise, and in name, and in honor.
The things, to which we have referred, all tend to national dignity. From them has come the unexampled rise, the present standing, and whatever is admirable or exhilarating in the prospects of this community. Apart from the public opinion and course, they have not in themselves the power of preservation and progress. There are means, which are essential evidence of the nurturing care of the possessors of these advantages, and without a continual application of them we shall not advance, but be retrograde. In their moral state, neither individuals nor nations can remain stationary.
What are these means?
1. A correct and ardent love of country.
The sentiment is collected from reason, receives an affecting illustration in the example of the Redeemer, and is involved in the obligation to universal benevolence, which is an irreversible law of his religion, that this love of country is an essential principle of virtue, and is connected with all which is elevating and ennobling in the human character. It needs much to chasten, guide, and carry it to perfection. Patriotism, which is wild, boisterous, regardless of means to express itself, undirected by a knowledge of the tendency and history of nations and men, unsanctified by piety, is always suspicious, and frequently the source of mischievous operation. It subordinates concern for country to the accomplishment of purposes of ambition. It exhausts itself in high sounding protestations. It patronizes the pernicious theory, that a man may attain to eminence as a patriot, who has no liberality of feeling, no disposition to sacrifice personal convenience, interest, or happiness for the common good, and no veneration for religion, which shall prompt to vigorous and unwearied exertions for its support. This can with no shadow of reason be called Christian patriotism.
Is it to propose a visionary project, and which is unworthy the attention of a free people, that there be added to our means of education more systematic and pointed instructions relating to this virtue? Could ordinary teachers, or instructors of any class, be more usefully employed, than by exciting in the young a fervid attachment to the land of their fathers’ sepulchers; instilling as some of the first and best lessons, that the origin, growth, institutions, interests, character, and prospects of their country should often be contemplated, and never but with profound veneration? Might we not without giving rise to a dangerous pride, and without encouraging a supercilious contempt of the people of any nation, or age, frequently refer to the facilities at our command for obtaining a livelihood; attaining to distinction; accumulating wealth; acquiring knowledge; and laying up in store a good foundation for the generations, who shall live when we are sleeping in the dust? Might we not in special give birth to a glowing, inextinguishable, operative attachment to their country, should we dilate upon the Christian opportunities here enjoyed; the love of truth which is promoted; the spirit of free inquiry which has gone forth; the universal toleration of opinions and worship, which form a precious part of our liberties? If some of the first lessons which are given be of this character, it cannot be delusive expectation that a spark of patriotism will be enkindled in the youthful breast, which “no waters can quench, or floods drown.” It must then be, that the children, who are yet to be born, will have for their guides and protectors a race of men, who have the enlarged and philanthropic views, which give the surest promise of a steady advancement of their country toward perfection.
2. Liberal care and solicitude for the education and employment of the rising generation.
The opinion is not novel, but as ancient as the existence of civil government, and of republicanism in particular, that families are nurseries of the Commonwealth; children and youths the future pillars and guardians; that the dispositions, views, and habits which are cherished in the domestic circle from the husband and parent; mark the magistrate; characterize the civil ruler; shape the citizen. Nor has any sure expedient been yet devised, as a substitute for the first rudiments of learning, or the more advanced lessons. The most romantic and licentious have not found any plausible qualification for an actor on the public stage; nothing which could make him a safe depository of the great interests of society; nothing which could render him a faithful protector of its liberties, or an impartial and wise dispenser of justice, short of early, scientific, and moral instruction. Take knowledge from a republic, and you remove the corner stone. Cease to dispense and instill moral and Christian maxims into the youthful mind, and you leave the state without the prospect of trusty guides, and the certain and easy prey of every wanton assailant. It would be no miracle, but according to the course of things, and it would be a natural addition to the swoln catalogue of fallen states, if America, stripped of the means of learning and moral improvement, should furnish a triumph to some daring usurper, or a throne to some relentless despot. Keep alive the spirit of literary emulation, which pervades our land, and place your children in the way of knowing their relation to a moral Governor and Judge, and we may in vain attempt to set bounds to the rising glory and happiness of our country.
Every parent or guardian of a liberal mind will be as solicitous to form in his children a habit of industry, and to train them to some reputable employment, as that they should be scholars. Would it not establish free states upon a more firm and immovable basis, if the Athenian regulation should be rigidly enforced? It was there a standing law, that the son was exonerated from the support of his father, if he had neglected to initiate him into some regular and lucrative trade. Look upon him as a dangerous member of society, who shall advance the sentiment, that virtuous industry is at any time degrading. Let the youths who are coming upon the stage, and have not in view a learned profession, aim to be well skilled in some mechanic art, or devoted to a gainful and laborious enterprise. If by personal diligence or a prosperous event, they are raised above the necessity of manual labor, they need not fear, that their capacity for usefulness in any condition, will be reviewed by them with regret or mortification. No. They have the most solid cause of self respect, because they have done something to make industry reputable, and to gain for this people, on account of their skill and diligence, a name and a praise amongst all nations.
3. A vigilant and faithful regard to civil rights.
It is not difficult to know what these rights are, the value to be set on them, and the extent to which they are to be defended, if we form correct ideas of republican liberty. It is a liberty to pursue any course of thought, judgment, action, whether relating to our persons, property, performance of relative or civil duties, which is approved by nature and reason, and can be reconciled with the regulations and laws, which as a people we have voluntarily adopted for our guidance and restraint. We cannot but notice and admire the correspondence of a liberty of this character to that by which Christ hath made us free. He has guaranteed to all moral beings the liberty to think, judge, and act in the view of motives, within the limits prescribed by the law of nature and reason, and which by his gospel, containing a perfect republication of that law, is sanctioned.
There are civil rights, which are by all admitted. Such are the right of coming to a decision in our mind, and decorously expressing this, on the reasonableness and constitutionality of laws, the character and measures of rulers. We have also a right lawfully to resist assaults of our person, encroachments upon our property, an unauthorized invasion of any of our liberties, whether this come from persons in elevated stations, or in retirement. We have moreover the right of electing rulers. An awful responsibility rests upon subjects duly to exercise and guard these civil rights. IN the former cases they are at all hazards to maintain their liberty within the bounds of righteousness and law. In the choice of rulers they are to exercise judgment, unbiased by sinister, party, or local considerations, with a sacred regard to the qualifications and claims of the candidates for promotion, to the general good, and in strict submission to the scriptural character given of those, who are worthy of being clothed with authority. Neglect these things, undervalue these civil rights, and you may consider this state of torpor, this predisposition to moral blindness, as the sure precursor of your own disgrace, and the downfall of your country. Respect those rights. Use with caution but intrepidity this liberty. Guard against licentiousness. After a full investigation of the talents, the moral qualities, the political knowledge, the evidences of public spirit, and religion, in such as are offered for your suffrages, aid only in the appointment of the faithful of the land. Do thus, and you will be the nursing fathers of this nation. You may consider as certain its continued progress toward the perfection of civil glory.
4. Acting from concern for posterity.
Each age has an influence upon the external state, literary improvements, moral and religious character of such as shall succeed. A habit of imitation, a reverence for what is customary and ancient, and the idea that a principle, a mode of life, a regulation, an institution are transmitted under sanction of the attachment and value of a venerated progenitor will make them precious in the eyes of the descendant. He will cling to each and all of them as to the image of a much loved, respected, and departed friend.
In a qualified sense both virtue and vice continue in the world by descent. “The iniquities of the fathers will be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation;” will from one of the causes above recited or their joint operation have a control over their state and moral standing. Without any limitations of the number of generations, or the period of their existence, will the descendants of those, who have been and done good, derive essential benefits from the liberality and intrinsic excellence of a worthy ancestry.
The present age may not, with the profusion of means, have done all, which was practicable for their own good, and for the improvement and well being of after generations. To their honor be it publicly proclaimed, they have done much. Charities have been wisely applied to relieve the sufferer, reanimate the apparently dead, restore the insane, ameliorate the state of the indigent, and extend the advantages of science. These will be perpetual monuments of the liberality and Christian proficiency of our times. Nor will it cease to be remembered in commendation of this generation, that it has given birth to the mighty enterprise of terminating wars, spreading far and wide the blessings of the gospel, and sending “the word of life” without mutilation, or “words which man’s wisdom teacheth,” to those, who are perishing for lack of knowledge. Show yourselves worthy of being the children or cotemporaries of such men, by a solicitude to cherish and disseminate this heaven-born spirit, to patronize and recommend these measures. You are scattering seed, which will yield a rich harvest in distant ages. You are at work for the reputation and happiness of those, who shall then live. Your magnanimity and disinterestedness will inspirit the generations, which are yet to be born, to go, think, and do likewise. You may indulge a prophetic spirit, and announce to a listening world, that yours will be the land, which God hath chosen, and in which he will condescend to dwell.
Finally. A practical dependence on moral and religious principles, as they are enforced y Christianity.
We cannot but indulge the hope, that the idea, that nations can exist without the active prevalence of correct views of morality and religion, is exploded. We do hope for the honor of the present and of coming periods, that the individuals or people will not again be known, so bereft of reason and judgment, devoid of decency, regardless of character, blunted in moral sense, unworthy of life or its blessings, as to defend the preposterous idea, that any community can exist in dignity, prosperity, or safety without a sense of God, his government, and providence.
Is it to be licentious in charity to believe, that this address is made to an assembly, who, without exception, are ready to admit, that in the Gospel of Jesus alone is embodied such a system of morals and religion, as accords with the best wishes of man, approves itself to the enlightened understanding and judgment, is suited to exalt and make happy individuals and nations? If any have the boldness to deny this, let them be told, that they are indulging an opinion, and uttering language, which are rejected by common sense, are in open resistance to nature and reason, contradicted by the experience of the vile and unbelieving, subversive of all which is great and good in the world, and full of danger to themselves in every stage of their existence. Go then to the work, to which Christianity calls you. Abandon every corrupt propensity and sin. Independently oppose all excess and luxury. Be the friends of charity, truth, and rectitude. Exemplify “whatsoever things are true, honest, pure, lovely, praiseworthy, and of good report.” Have the faith in the Son of God, which is the surest principle of purity, and which shall incite you to the observance of all his ordinances and laws. Be examples of habitual piety. You may then believe, that whatever you have imagined or been taught of the future greatness, glory, prosperity, or blessedness of your country, will be accomplished. You or your children will be the witnesses of a fulfillment of the purposes and promise of God, in that he hath made you high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honor; and this because you are a holy people unto the Lord your God, as he hath spoken.
Americans! This is the renown, to which your country by natural and adventitious advantages seems to be destined, and these are the means of attainment and security. A deliberate observer cannot reflect upon the course of his nation from comparative insignificance to distinction; from poverty to wealth; from weakness to power; from oppression to liberty; without holding in high veneration the honored instruments of these changes. Men of every succeeding age will celebrate the adventurous spirit, fortitude, wisdom, disinterestedness, and piety of our ancestors. None will have the hardihood to deny, that the latest generations will reap the benefit of their patriotic feelings, liberal provisions, and prospective aims.
We review the revolutionary struggle as an eventful epoch in our national history. The actors in that scene and their achievements cannot fail to be prominent articles in the annals of America. We should commit an act of the grossest injustice, and be unworthy of our blessings, did we not identify with the history of Washington, and his military and civil associates, much which is excellent and stable in our government; useful and permanent in our institutions; animating and estimable in our prospects.
The associations of the present hour awaken in our mind the days and scenes, with which our destinies as a people are intimately united. Called to take a respectful leave of our Chief Magistrate, he will permit us to remind him of the privilege of having lived in the most perilous times, shared the affection and confidence of the political deliverer of this nation, and aided him and other worthies, in founding, rearing in full proportions, and embellishing the Temple of Liberty. We ascribe praise to the giver of all good dispositions, that His Excellency, on retiring from public life, can bear testimony in honor of his countrymen, that ingratitude, which is the common legacy of Republics, forms no part of his reward. He may feel assured, that “our tongue will cleave to the roof of our mouth,” before we shall cease to recount his sacrifices and efforts for the common good, and the solicitude he has evinced for the ark of God. It is with joy and gratitude that we express our belief, that this administration will have a conspicuous place on the page of history. It will be held up as a model for the rulers of all free people, for success in allaying the rancor of party; for the principle which has been in exercise, to reward merit without regard to political distinctions, and for the lustre it has shed upon our Commonwealth. We offer a devout prayer, that His Excellency may live, to witness the continued purity and prosperity of our institutions, and to support them by his example. On the day, which God hath appointed, may the Lord, the righteous Judge, bestow upon him a crown of righteousness.
It will be gratefully remembered, that His Honor the Lieutenant Governor cheerfully obeyed the call of patriotism, and devoted the most valuable years of his life to the public interest. It is to us a cause of consolation, that in retiring from political life he has not separated himself from duties and objects, essentially important to the welfare and happiness of the world. Now that the repose of nations is again disturbed, and the people, who delight in war, ostentatiously boast of their preparations for the work of human destruction, we felicitate ourselves, and the cause of peace, and Christianity, on finding him at the head of a band of Peacemakers. We congratulate them on the unexampled diffusion of their principles. It is a favorable symptom of the moral state of the world, that nations signalized by ambition and martial prowess, esteem it honorable to learn of them the art of causing wars to cease from the ends of the earth. May they have good success in the prosecution of their work. We supplicate for their President, and all who co-operate with him, the highest of blessings and titles, even that they may be called “the Children of God.”
The Honorable Council, the Senate, and the House of Representatives will accept our congratulations on the tranquil and prosperous state of our country. They will appreciate the privilege and honor of being raised to office at a period, in which our humane, scientific, and civil establishments are in the height of their growth and vigour. Their duty chiefly consists in protecting, and carrying to perfection schemes of elevation and affluence, projected by their distinguished predecessors. The rulers of a free government cannot be unapprised of their moral and religious obligations. The state of order, and the general virtue, which it is expected will be produced under the reign of despotism, by compulsion and force, they may hope will be effected in a greater degree by instruction and their own example.
As many of the enterprising in this community are investing their property in manufacturing interests, as the most probable means of accumulation, and they are receiving the highest patronage, one request may be preferred to our Civil Fathers. If it be possible by early legislative provision, or by other means, which your wisdom shall suggest, we offer an earnest petition, that the class of labourers may be saved from the degradation of mind and character, which we deplore in those who are thus occupied in the elder world.
Imperishable fame redounds to the memory of preceding Legislators for their assiduity and vigilance in the promotion of useful knowledge. We commit to the keeping of their successors our Schools and Seminaries of learning, in the hope that they have an unshaken faith in the doctrine, that knowledge and virtue are the only safeguards of republicanism. We have a full persuasion, that while the seats in our halls of legislation are retained by the lovers of learning, and religious liberty, and by those, who venerate an Institution, which under God is a great source of our respectability and happiness, the University in this vicinity will be the object of their watchful and paternal care.
May we also from political as well as Christian motives bespeak your sympathy as citizens, and disciples of Jesus, in behalf of our Corporations, which by reason of indigence or divisions are without stated religious instruction and the ordinances. This appeal is made with the greater assurance, as the station you occupy is proof of the general confidence in your rectitude and public spirit. It is likewise believed, that much good might be produced by your example. Use your influence then in securing for your destitute brethren the means of religious knowledge. Keep them from being witnesses of a spirit of proselytism in any of its excesses. Provide for them such plain, reasonable, practical instructions as were dispensed by the Saviour, and his immediate disciples. Seed, which is thus sown, with the blessing of heaven, will spring up and bear fruit, “some thirty fold, some sixty fold, some an hundred fold.” You may hope to convert what are known to be abodes of anarchy, vice, and impiety, into scenes of Christian purity and order. You may hope in the best possible way to add strength and stability to our Republic; to convert those, who are now the servants of corruption, to the regularity and usefulness of good citizens; to “the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus, and to the liberty of the Sons of God.”
With a reference to the retributions of eternity may you execute your labours for the suppression of vice, encouragement of virtue, preservation of order, and security of the common welfare. May you attain to the dignity and reward of good and faithful servants.
Christian Ministers! The enlightened and patriotic have been ready to acknowledge your agency in advancing the civil interests, independence, and moral distinction of this community. They rely on the religion you preach, with its momentous sanctions, and the ordinances you administer, to multiply the refinements of domestic and social life; impose restraints on the inclination to libertinism and excess; strengthen the arm of the magistrate; establish in the ordinary intercourse of men a love of charity, truth, justice, and right; eradicate all in their speculations or practice, which savours of superstition; give fervency and elevation to piety; minister consolation in affliction, sickness, and death; and to keep alive a sense of accountability at the tribunal of heaven.
An order of men, whose personal influence is owned, whose office is respected, whose work is admitted to involve the best interests of time and immortality, will suffer the word of exhortation, that they in nothing fail to sustain their appropriate character. Brethren! Ye are called unto liberty. It is your privilege to live where there are no hierarchal establishments. It is your happiness to have fallen upon times, too enlightened, to tolerate or fear the general triumph of a lust of spiritual domination. Let it be your great solicitude to give no just occasion for a prejudice against your profession. How can we better fulfill our commission, than by repressing in ourselves, and aiming to overcome in others, everything which is allied to religious indifference, illiberality, or censoriousness, and by showing that we have “put on the meekness and gentleness of Christ?” How can we reflect higher honor on our office and religion, than by bending all our energies to the discovery of truth; and by uniting in an earnest and well directed effort to advance the kingdom, which consisteth in righteousness, peace, and joy? How can we do more to make our nation high above all nations in praise, and in name, and in honor, than by dispensing such lessons, as shall persuade our fellow Christians to “deny all ungodliness, and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world?” How may we give more full effect to the Gospel, than by displaying the evidence of integrity and charity in our temper, preaching, and life, which must and will result from a cordial belief, that “one is our Master, even Christ, and all we are brethren?”
Each inhabitant of this land has a reputation and interest, which must rise or sink with the character, condition, and prospects of his country. To none but the stranger to genuine patriotism will it be a matter of indifference, whether the scene of his nativity shall be in honor or disgrace. Let it therefore be admitted by every citizen as an obligation, which he cannot alienate, to stand as a sentinel to guard the public welfare. Whatever may be his rank or station, he may by his principles and habits contribute to establish, or sully his country’s fame. Who does not admire to gaze in imagination on the glory and grandeur to which his nation may attain! Who is not prepared to give wings to his fancy, that he may survey the millions of people in distant times, who shall ascribe the existence of their privileges, and the sum of their safety and joy, to the liberality and foresight of the present and preceding ages!
Be as virtuous and pious as the land you inhabit is excellent, and you may hope to transmit this inestimable inheritance for the possession and enjoyment of future generations. They will rise up and call you blessed, who aided in forming and giving permanency to their institutions, and in devising so many of the means of their improvement and happiness.
1. Tudor’s Life of J. Otis. (Return)
2. Priestly’s Lectures on History. (Return)