Massachusetts Election Sermon of 1778
Delivered by Reverend Phillips Payson in Boston.
But Jerusalem, which is above, is free, which is the mother of us all. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bond woman, but of the free. –Galatians iv. 26, 31
It is common for the inspired writers to speak of the gospel dispensation in terms applicable to the heavenly world, especially when they view it in comparison with the law of Moses. In this light they consider the church of God, and good men upon earth, as members of the church and family of God above, and liken the liberty of Christians to that of the citizens of the heavenly Zion. We doubt not but the Jerusalem above, the heavenly society, possesses the noblest liberty to a degree of perfection of which the human mind can have no adequate conception in the present state. The want of that knowledge and rectitude they are endowed with above renders liberty and government so imperfect here below.
Next to the liberty of heaven is that which the sons of God, the heirs of glory, possess in this life, in which they are freed from the bondage of corruption, the tyranny of evil lusts and passions, described by the apostle “by being made free from sin, and becoming the servants of God.” These kinds of liberty are so nearly related, that the latter is considered as a sure pledge of the former; and therefore all good men, all true believers, in a special sense are children of the free woman, heirs of the promise. This religious or spiritual liberty must be accounted the greatest happiness of man, considered in a private capacity. But considering ourselves here as connected in civil society, and members one of another, we must in this view esteem civil liberty as the greatest of all human blessings. This admits of different degrees, nearly proportioned to the morals, capacity, and principles of a people, and the mode of government they adopt; for, like the enjoyment of other blessings, it supposes an aptitude or taste in the possessor. Hence a people formed upon the morals and principles of the gospel are capacitated to enjoy the highest degree of civil liberty, and will enjoy it, unless prevented by force or fraud.
Much depends upon the mode and administration of civil government to complete the blessings of liberty; for although the best possible plan of government never can give an ignorant and vicious people the true enjoyment of liberty, yet a state may be enslaved though its inhabitants in general may be knowing, virtuous, and heroic. The voice of reason and the voice of God both teach us that the great object or end of government is the public good. Nor is there less certainty in determining that a free and righteous government originates from the people, and is under their direction and control; and therefore a free, popular model of government–of the republican kind–may be judged the most friendly to the rights and liberties of the people, and the most conducive to the public welfare.
On account of the infinite diversity of opinions and interests, as well as for the other weighty reasons, a government altogether popular, so as to have the decision of cases by assemblies of the body of the people, cannot be thought so eligible; nor yet that a people should delegate their power and authority to one single man, or to one body of men, or indeed, to any hands whatever, excepting for a short term of time. A form of government may be so constructed as to have useful checks in the legislature, and yet capable of acting with union, vigor, and despatch, with a representation equally proportioned, preserving the legislative and executive branches distinct, and the great essentials of liberty be preserved and secured. To adjust such a modela is acknowledged to be a nice and difficult matter; and, when adjusted, to render it respectable, permanent, and quiet, the circumstances of the state, and the capacities and morals both of rulers and people, are not only of high importance, but of absolute necessity.
It by no means becomes me to assume the airs of a dictator, by delineating a model of government; but I shall ask the candid attention of this assembly to some things respecting a state, its rulers and inhabitants, of high importance, and necessary to the being and continuance of such a free and righteous government as we wish for ourselves and posterity, and hope, by the blessing of God, to have ere long established.
In this view, it is obvious to observe that a spirit of liberty should in general prevail among a people; their minds should be possessed with a sense of its worth and nature. Facts and observation abundantly teach us that the minds of a community, as well as of individuals, are subject to different and various casts and impressions. The inhabitants of large and opulent empires and kingdoms are often entirely lost to a sense of liberty, in which case they become an easy prey to usurpers and tyrants. Where the spirit of liberty is found in its genuine vigor it produces its genuine effects; urging to the greatest vigilance and exertions, it will surmount great difficulties; [so] that it is no easy matter to deceive or conquer a people determined to be free. The exertions and effects of this great spirit in our land have already been such as may well astonish the world; and so long as it generally prevails it will be quiet with no species of government but what befriends and protects it. Its jealousy for its safety may sometimes appear as if verging to faction; but it means well, and can never endanger a state unless its root and source is corrupted.
Free republican governments have been objected to, as if exposed to factions from an excess of liberty. The Grecian states are mentioned for a proof, and it is allowed that the history of some of those commonwealths is little else but a narration of factions; but it is justly denied that the true spirit of liberty produced these effects. Violent and opposing parties, shaking the pillars of the state, may arise under the best forms of government. A government, from various causes, may be thrown into convulsions, like the Roman state in its latter periods, and, like that, may die of the malady. But the evils which happen in a state are not always to be charged upon its government, much less upon one of the noblest principles that can dwell in the human breast. There are diseases in government, like some on the human body, that lie undiscovered till they become wholly incurable.
The baneful effects of exorbitant wealth, the lust of power, and other evil passions, are so inimical to a free, righteous government, and find such an easy access to the human mind, that it is difficult, if possible, to keep up the spirit of good government, unless the spirit of liberty prevails in the state. This spirit, like other generous growths of nature, flourishes best in its native soil. It has been engrafted, at one time and another, in various countries: in America it shoots up and grows as in its natural soil. Recollecting our pious ancestors, the first settlers of the country,–nor shall we look for ancestry beyond that period,–and we may say, in the most literal sense, we are children, not of the bond woman, but of the free. It may hence well be expected that the exertions and effects of American liberty should be more vigorous and complete. It has the most to fear from ignorance and avarice; for it is no uncommon thing for a people to lose sight of their liberty in the eager pursuit of wealth, as the states of Holland have done; and it will always be as easy to rob an ignorant people of their liberty as to pick the pockets of a blind man.
The slavery of a people is generally founded in ignorance of some kind or another; and there are not wanting such facts as abundantly prove the human mind may be so sunk and debased, through ignorance and its natural effects, as even to adore its enslaver, and kiss its chains. Hence knowledge and learning may well be considered as most essentially requisite to a free, righteous government. A republican government and science mutually promote and support each other. Great literary acquirements are indeed the lot of but few, because but few in a community have ability and opportunity to pursue the paths of science; but a certain degree of knowledge is absolutely necessary to be diffused through a state for the preservation of its liberties and the quiet of government.
Every kind of useful knowledge will be carefully encouraged and promoted by the rulers of a free state, unless they should happen to be men of ignorance themselves; in which case they and the community will be in danger of sharing the fate of blind guides and their followers. The education of youth, by instructors properly qualified,b the establishment of societies for useful arts and sciences, the encouragement of persons of superior abilities, will always command the attention of wise rulers.
The late times of our glorious struggle have not indeed been favorable to the cause of education in general, though much useful knowledge of the geography of our country, of the science of arms, of our abilities and strength, and of our natural rights and liberties, has been acquired; great improvements have also been made in several kinds of manufactory. But our security and the public welfare require yet greater exertions to promote education and useful knowledge. Most of the internal difficulties of a state commonly arise from ignorance, that general source of error. The growls of avarice and curses of clowns will generally be heard when the public liberty and safety call for more generous and costly exertions. Indeed, we may never expect to find the marks of public virtue, the efforts of heroism, or any kind of nobleness, in a man who has no idea of nobleness and excellency but what he hoards up in his barn or ties up in his purse.
It is readily allowed there have not been wanting statesmen and heroes of the generous growth of nature, though instances of this sort are not so common. But if these had been favored with the improvements of art, they would have appeared to much greater advantage, and with brighter lustre. Nothing within the compass of human ability is of that real weight and importance as the education of youth–the propagation of knowledge. Despotism and tyranny want nothing but wealth and force, but liberty and order are supported by knowledge and virtue.
I shall also mention the love of our country, or public virtue, as another essential support of good government and the public liberties. No model of government whatever can equal the importance of this principle, nor afford proper safety and security without it. Its object being the approbation of conscience, and its motive to exertion being the public welfare, hence it can only dwell in superior minds, elevated above private interest and selfish views. It does that for the public which domestic affection does among real friends; but, like other excellences, is more frequently pretended to than possessed.
In the ancient Roman republic it was the life and soul of the state which raised it to all its glory, being always awake to the public defence and good; and in every state it must, under Providence, be the support of government, the guardian of liberty, or no human wisdom or policy can support and preserve them. Civil society cannot be maintained without justice, benevolence, and the social virtues. Even the government of the Jerusalem above could not render a vicious and abandoned people quiet and happy. The children of the bond woman, slaves to vice, can never be free. If the reason of the mind, man’s immediate rule of conduct, is in bondage to corruption, he is verily the worst of slaves. Public spirit, through human imperfection, is in danger of degenerating to selfish passion, which has a malignant influence on public measures. This danger is the greater because the corruption is not commonly owned, nor soon discerned. Such as are the most diseased with it are apt to be the most insensible to their error.
The exorbitant wealth of individuals has a most baneful influence on public virtue, and therefore should be carefully guarded against. It is, however, acknowledged to be a difficult matter to secure a state from evils and mischiefs from this quarter; because, as the world goes, and is like to go, wealth and riches will have their commanding influence. The public interest being a remoter object than that of self, hence persons in power are so generally disposed to turn it to their own advantage. A wicked rich man, we see, soon corrupts a whole neighborhood, and a few of them will poison the morals of a whole community. This sovereign power of interest seems to have been much the source of modern politics abroad, and has given birth to such maxims of policy as these, viz., that “the wealth of a people is their truest honor,” that “every man has his price,” that “the longest purse, and not the longest sword, will finally be victorious.” But we trust and hope that American virtue will be sufficient to convince the world that such maxims are base, are ill-founded, and altogether unfit and improper to influence and lead in government. In the infancy of states there is not commonly so much danger of these mischiefs, because the love of liberty and public virtue are then more general and vigorous; but the danger is apt to increase with the wealth of individuals. These observations are founded upon such well known facts, that the rulers of a free state have sufficient warning to guard against the evils. The general diffusion of knowledge is the best preservative against them, and the likeliest method to beget and increase that public virtue, which, under God, will prove, like the promises of the gospel, an impregnable bulwark to the state.
I must not forget to mention religion, both in rulers and people, as of the highest importance to the public. This is the most sacred principle that can dwell in the human breast. It is of the highest importance to men,–the most perfective of the human soul. The truths of the gospel are the most pure, its motives the most noble and animating, and its comforts the most supporting to the mind. The importance of religion to civil society and government is great indeed, as it keeps alive the best sense of moral obligation, a matter of such extensive utility, especially in respect to an oath, which is one of the principal instruments of government. The fear and reverence of God, and the terrors of eternity, are the most powerful restraints upon the minds of men; and hence it is of special importance in a free government, the spirit of which being always friendly to the sacred rights of conscience, it will hold up the gospel as the great rule of faith and practice. Established modes and usages in religion, more especially the stated public worship of God, so generally form the principles and manners of a people, that changes or alterations in these, especially when nearly conformed to the spirit and simplicity of the gospel, may well be esteemed very dangerous experiments in government. For this, and other reasons, the thoughtful and wise among us trust that our civil fathers, from a regard to gospel worship and the constitution of these churches, will carefully preserve them, and at all times guard against every innovation that might tend to overset the public worship of God, though such innovations may urged from the most foaming zeal. Persons of a gloomy, ghostly, and mystic cast, absorbed in visionary scenes, deserve but little notice in matters either of religion or government. Let the restraints of religion once be broken down, as they infallibly would be by leaving the subject of public worship to the humors of the multitude, and we might well defy all human wisdom and power to support and preserve order and government in the state. Human conduct and character can never be better formed than upon the principles of our holy religion; they give the justest sense, the most adequate views, of the duties between rulers and people, and are the best principles in the world to carry the ruler through the duties of his station; and in case a series of faithful services should be followed with popular censure, as may be the case, yet the religious ruler will find the approbation of his conscience a noble reward.
Many other things might be mentioned as circumstances much in favor of a free government and public liberty, as where the inhabitants of a state can, in general, give their suffrages in person, and men of abilities are dispersed in the several parts of a state capable of public office and station; especially if there is a general distribution of property, and the landed interest not engrossed by a few, but possessed by the inhabitants in general through the state. Things of this nature wear a kind aspect. But, for the preservation and permanence of the state, it is of still higher importance that its internal strength be supported upon the great pillars of capacity, defence, and union. The full liberty of the press–that eminent instrument of promoting knowledge, and great palladium of the public liberty–being enjoyed, the learned professions directed to the public good, the great principles of legislation and government, the great examples and truths of history, the maxims of generous and upright policy, and the severer truths of philosophy investigated and apprehended by a general application to books, and by observation and experiment,–are means by which the capacity of a state will be strong and respectable, and the number of superior minds will be daily increasing. Strength, courage, and military discipline being, under God, the great defence of a state, as these are cultivated and improved the public defence will increase; and if there is added to these a general union, a spirit of harmony, the internal strength and beauty of the state will be great indeed. The variety and freedom of opinion is apt to check the union of a free state; and in case the union be interrupted merely from the freedom of opinion, contesting for real rights and privileges, the state and its government may still be strong and secure, as was, in fact, the case in ancient Rome, in the more disinterested periods of that republic. But if parties and factions, arising from false ambition, avarice, or revenge, run high, they endanger the state, which was the case in the latter periods of the republic of Rome. Hence the parties in a free state, if aimed at the public liberty and welfare, are salutary; but if selfish interest and views are their source, they are both dangerous and destructive.
The language of just complaint, the voice of real grievance, in most cases may easily be distinguished from the mere clamor of selfish, turbulent, and disappointed men. The ear of a righteous government will always be open to the former; its hand with wisdom and prudence will suppress the latter. And, since passion is as natural to men as reason, much discretion should be used to calm and quiet disaffected minds. Coercives in government should always be held as very dangerous political physic: such as have gone into the practice have commonly either killed or lost their patients.
A spirit of union is certainly a most happy omen in a state, and, upon righteous principles, should be cultivated and improved with diligence. It greatly strengthens public measures, and gives them vigor and dispatch; so that but small states, when united, have done wonders in defending their liberties against powerful monarchs. Of this we have a memorable example in the little state of Athens, which destroyed the fleet of Xerxes, consisting of a thousand ships, and drove Darius with his army of three hundred thousand men out of Greece.
It must not be forgotten that much, very much, depends upon rulers to render a free government quiet, permanent, and respectful; they ought therefore, in an eminent degree, to possess those virtues and abilities which are the source and support of such a government. The modern maxims of policy abroad, the base arts of bribery and corruption, of intrigue and dissimulation, will soon be productive of evils and mischiefs in the state; and, since a corruption of manners almost necessarily follows a corruption of policy, the rulers of a free state ought to be influenced by the most generous and righteous principles and views. Ignorant and designing men should be kept from public offices in the state, as the former will be dupes to the ambitious, and the latter will be likely to prove the instruments of discord. Men, upon their first promotion, commonly act and speak with an air of meekness and diffidence, which however may consist with firmness and resolution. The practice of power is apt to dissipate these humble airs; for this and other reasons it may generally be best not to continue persons a long time in places of honor and emolument.
The qualities of a good ruler may be estimated from the nature of a free government. Power being a delegation, and all delegated power being in its nature subordinate and limited, hence rulers are but trustees, and government a trust; therefore fidelity is a prime qualification in a ruler; this, joined with good natural and acquired abilities, goes far to complete the character. Natural disposition that is benevolent and kind, embellished with the graceful modes of address, agreeably strike the mind, and hence, in preference to greater real abilities, will commonly carry the votes of a people. It is, however, a truth in fact, that persons of this cast are subject to a degree of indolence, from which arises an aversion to those studies which form the great and active patriot. It is also a temper liable to that flexibility which may prove prejudicial to the state. A good acquaintance with mankind, a knowledge of the leading passions and principles of the human mind, is of high importance in the character before us; for common and well-known truths and real facts ought to determine us in human matters. We should take mankind as they are, and not as they ought to be or would be if they were perfect in wisdom and virtue. So, in our searches for truth and knowledge, and in our labors for improvement, we should keep within the ken or compass of the human mind. The welfare of the public being the great object of the ruler’s views, they ought, of consequence, to be discerning in the times–always awake and watchful to the public danger and defence. And in order that government may support a proper air of dignity, and command respect, the ruler should engage in public matters, and perform the duties of his office, with gravity and solemnity of spirit. With wisdom he will deliberate upon public measures; and, tenacious of a well-formed purpose and design, he will pursue it with an inflexible stability. Political knowledge, a sense of honor, an open and generous mind, it is confessed, will direct and urge a ruler to actions and exertions beneficial to the state; and if, added to these, he has a principle of religion and the fear of God, it will in the best manner fit him for the whole course of allotted duty. The greatest restraints, the noblest motives, and the best supports arise from our holy religion. The pious ruler is by far the most likely to promote the public good. His example will have the most happy influence; his public devotions will not only be acts of worship and homage to God, but also a charity to men. Superior to base passions and little resentments, undismayed by danger, not awed by threatenings, he guides the helm in storm and tempest, and is ready, if called in providence, to sacrifice his life for his country’s good. Most of all concerned to approve himself to his God, he avoids the subtle arts of chicanery, which are productive of so much mischief in a state; exercising a conscience void of offence, he has food to eat which the world knows not of, and in the hour of his death–that solemn period–has a hope and confidence in God, which is better than a thousand worlds.
A state and its inhabitants thus circumstanced in respect to government, principle, morals, capacity, union, and rulers, make up the most striking portrait, the liveliest emblem of the Jerusalem that is above, that this world can afford. That this may be the condition of these free, independent, and sovereign states of America, we have the wishes and prayers of all good men. Indulgent Heaven seems to invite and urge us to accept the blessing. A kind and wonderful Providence has conducted us, by astonishing steps, as it were, within sight of the promised land. We stand this day upon Pisgah’s top, the children of the free woman, the descendants of a pious race, who, from the love of liberty and the fear of God, spent their treasure and spilt their blood. Animated by the same great spirit of liberty, and determined, under God, to be free, these states have made one of the noblest stands against despotism and tyranny that can be met with in the annals of history, either ancient or modern. One common cause, one common danger, and one common interest, has united and urged us to the most vigorous exertions. From small beginnings, from great weakness,–impelled from necessity and the tyrant’s rod, but following the guidance of Heaven,–we have gone through a course of noble and heroic actions, with minds superior to the most virulent menaces, and to all the horrors of war; for we trusted in the God of our forefathers. We have been all along the scorn and derision of our enemies, but the care of Heaven, the charge of God; and hence our cause and union, like the rising sun, have shone brighter and brighter. Thanks be to God! we this day behold in the fulness of our spirit the great object of our wishes, of our toils and wars, brightening in our view. The battles we have already fought, the victoriesc we have won, the pride of tyranny that must needs have been humbled, mark the characters of the freemen of America with distinguished honor, and will be read with astonishment by generations yet unborn.
The lust of dominion is a base and detested principle, the desire of revenge is an infernal one; and the former, if opposed, commonly produces the latter. From these our enemies seem to have taken their measures, and hence have treated us with the greatest indignities, reproaches, insults, and cruelties that were ever heaped upon a people when struggling for their all. The remembrance of these things can never be lost. And although, under God, American wisdom and valor have hitherto opposed and baffled both their force and fraud, and we trust ever will, yet justice to our cause, to ourselves, and to our posterity, as well as a most righteous resentment, absolutely forbid that anything should pacify our minds short of a full and perfect independence. This, supported by the wisdom, virtue, and strength of the continent, must be our great charter of liberty. Nature has given us the claim, and the God of nature appears to be helping us to assert and maintain it. I am led to speak upon this point with the greatest confidence, from the late measures and resolves of that august assembly, the American Congress, which were so circumstanced and timed as must, with their general conduct, raise a monument to their fame that will bid defiance even to the devouring hand of time itself.
We must be infidels, the worst of infidels, to disown or disregard the hand that has raised us up such benevolent and powerful assistants in times of great distress. How wonderful that God, who in ancient times “girded Cyrus with his might,” should dispose his most Christian Majesty the king of France to enter into the most open and generous alliance with these independent states!–an event in providence which, like the beams of the morning, cheers and enlivens this great continent. We must cherish the feelings of gratitude to such friends in our distress; we must hold our treaties sacred and binding.
Is it possible for us to behold the ashes, the ruins, of large and opulent towns that have been burnt in the most wanton manner, to view the graves of our dear countrymen whose blood has been most cruelly spilt, to hear the cries and screeches of our ravished matrons and virgins that had the misfortune to fall into the enemies’ hands, and think of returning to that cruel and bloody power which has done all these things? No! We are not to suppose such a thought can dwell in the mind of a free, sensible American. The same feelings in nature that led a Peruvian prince to choose the other place, must also teach us to prefer connections with any people on the globe rather than with those from whom we have experienced such unrighteous severities and unparalleled cruelties.
It seems as if a little more labor and exertion will bring us to reap the harvest of all our toils; and certainly we must esteem the freedom and independency of these states a most ample reward for all our sufferings. In preference to all human affairs our cause still merits, and ever has done, the most firm and manly support. In this, the greatest of all human causes, numbers of the virtuous Americans have lost their all. I recall my words–they have not lost it; no, but, from the purest principles, have offered it up in sacrifice upon the golden altar of liberty. The sweet perfumes have ascended to heaven, and shall be had in everlasting remembrance.
In this stage of our struggle we are by no means to indulge to a supine and dilatory spirit, which might yet be fatal, nor have we to take our resolutions from despair. Far from this, we have the noblest motives, the highest encouragements. I know the ardor of the human mind is apt in time to abate, though the subject be ever so important; but surely the blood of our friends and countrymen, still crying in our ears, like the souls of the martyrs under the altar, must arouse and fire every nobler passion of the mind. Moreover, to anticipate the future glory of America from our present hopes and prospects is ravishing and transporting to the mind. In this light we behold our country, beyond the reach of all oppressors, under the great charter of independence, enjoying the purest liberty; beautiful and strong in its union; the envy of tyrants and devils, but the delight of God and all good men; a refuge to the oppressed; the joy of the earth; each State happy in a wise model of government, and abounding with wise men, patriots, and heroes; the strength and abilities of the whole continent, collected in a grave and venerable council, at the head of all, seeking and promoting the good of the present and future generations. Hail, my happy country, saved of the Lord! Happy land, emerged from the deluges of the Old World, drowned in luxury and lewd excess! Hail, happy posterity, that shall reap the peaceful fruits of our suffering, fatigues, and wars! With such prospects, such transporting views, it is difficult to keep the passions or the tongue within the bounds of Christian moderation. But far be it from us to indulge vain-glory, or return railing for railing, or to insult our foes; we cultivate better principles of humanity and bravery, and would much rather cherish the feelings of pity, especially to those of our enemies of better minds, whose names, with the baser, may appear in the pages of impartial history with indelible blemish. We wish, from the infatuation, and wickedness, and fate of our enemies, the world would learn lessons in wisdom and virtue; that princes would learn never to oppress their subjects; that the vaunting generals of Britian would learn never more to despise and contemn their enemy, nor prove blasphemers of God and religion. We wish the whole world may learn the worth of liberty. And may the inhabitants of these states, when their independence and freedom shall be completed, bless God for ever and ever; for thine, O Lord, is the power, and the glory, and the victory.
But, under our raised expectations of seeing the good of God’s chosen, let us think soberly, let us act wisely. The public still calls aloud for the united efforts both of rulers and people; nor have we as yet put off the harness. We have many things amiss among ourselves that need to be reformed,–many internal diseases to cure, and secret internal enemies to watch against, who may aim a fatal blow while making the highest pretensions to our cause; for plausible pretences are common covers to the blackest designs. We wish we had more public virtue, and that people would not be so greedy of cheating themselves and their neighbors. We wish for much greater exertions to promote education, and knowledge, and virtue, and piety. But in all states there will be such as want no learning, no government, no religion at all.
For the cure of our internal political diseases, and to promote the health and vigor, the defence and safety, of the state, our eyes, under God, are directed to our rulers; and, from that wisdom and prudence with which they have conducted our public affairs in the most trying times, we have the highest encouragement to look to them.
As a token of unfeigned respect, the honorable gentlemen of both Houses of Assembly present will permit me, by way of address, to observe, that the freemen of this state, by delegating their powers to you, my civil fathers, have reposed the greatest trust and confidence in you, from whence, we doubt not but you are sensible, arises the most sacred obligation to fidelity. Preserving a constant sense of this, and keeping the public welfare as your great object in view, we trust you will never be wanting in your best endeavors and most vigorous exertions to defend and deliver your country. The matters of the war will undoubtedly, at present, claim your first and principal attention,–always esteeming its great object, the liberty of your country, of more inestimable value than all the treasure of the world; and therefore, to obtain and secure it, no necessary charges or costs are to be spared. The internal matters of the state that claim your attention, though they may pass a severe scrutiny, will be noticed with all justice and impartiality; and in the choice of a Council,–that important branch of our Legislature from which we have experienced such eminent services–of which branch, or one nearly similar, we hope this state will never be destitute,–in this choice, persons of known ability, of public virtue and religion, and possessed of the spirit of liberty, will have the preference.
The burdens of your station are always great, and in these times are much increased; but you have the best of motives for exertion,–you have the consolation which arises from the fullest assurance of the justice of our cause; you have the unceasing prayers of good men; more than all these, you have the countenance and smiles of Heaven: with unceasing ardor, therefore, you will strive to be laborers together with God.
As nothing will be omitted that the good of the state calls for, we expect to see greater exertions in promoting the means of education and knowledged than ever have yet been made among us. You will especially allow me, my fathers, to recommend our college, so much the glory of our land, to your special attention and most generous encouragements; for everything that is excellent and good that we hope and wish for in future, in a most important and essential sense is connected with and depends upon exertions and endeavors of this kind. I need not observe, the leaders and rulers in our glorious cause have a fair opportunity of transmitting their names to posterity with characters of immortal honor. With my whole soul, I wish you the blessing of God, and the presence and guidance of his Holy Spirit.
My hearers, let us all harken to the calls of our country, to the calls of God, and learn those lessons in wisdom which are so forcibly inculcated upon us in these times, and by such wonderful measures in Providence. From a sacred regard both to the goodness and severity of God, let us follow the guidance of his providence, and in the way of duty leave ourselves and all events with God. Remembering that Jerusalem which is above is the mother of us all, that we are children “not of the bond woman, but of the free,” let us stand fast in the liberty where-with Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Imitating the virtue, the piety, the love of liberty, so conspicuous in our pious ancestors, like them let us exert ourselves for the good of posterity. With diligence let us cultivate the spirit of liberty, of public virtue, of union and religion, and thus strengthen the hands of government and the great pillars of the state. Our own consciences will reproach us, and the world condemn us, if we do not properly respect, and obey, and reverence the government of our own choosing. The eyes of the whole world are upon us in these critical times, and, what is yet more, the eyes of Almighty God. Let us act worthy of our professed principles, of our glorious cause, that in some good measure we may answer the expectations of God and of men. Let us cultivate the heavenly temper, and sacredly regard the great motive of the world to come. And God of his mercy grant the blessings of peace may soon succeed to the horrors of war, and that from the enjoyment of the sweets of liberty here we may in our turn and order go to the full enjoyment of the nobler liberties above, in that New Jerusalem, that city of the living God, that is enlightened by the glory of God and of the Lamb. AMEN.
a The form or constitution of government that has been submitted to the people of this state so amply secures the essentials of liberty, places and keeps the power so entirely in the hands of the people, is so concise and explicit, and makes such an easy step from the old to the new form, that it may justly be considered as a high evidence of the abilities of its compilers; and if it should not be complied with, it is very probably we never shall obtain a better.
b The want of proper instructors, and a proper method of instructing, are the reason that what we call common education, or school-learning, is generally so imperfect among us. Youth should always be taught by strict rule in reading, writing, and speaking, and so in all parts of their education. By this means the advantages of their education will commonly increase with their age, that by a little application in their riper years persons may raise a useful superstructure from a small foundation that was well laid at school in their earlier days. It would be of eminent service if instructors would more generally endeavor to fix in the minds of their scholars the rules of reading, of spelling, of writing, or of whatever branch of knowledge they teach.
c The memorable and complete victory obtained over General Burgoyne and his whole army will not only immortalize the character of the brave General Gates and the officers and troops under his command, but, considering the immense expense Britain would be at in replacing such an army in America, together with other reasons, renders it highly probable it may prove one of the capital events that decides the war and establishes the independency of these states.
d In matters of science we have a most ample field open for improvement. To complete the geography of our country, to improve in the arts of agriculture and manufacture, and of physic, and other branches of science, are great objects that demand our special attention, and to obtain which an uninterrupted course of observation and experiment ought to be kept up. And if our General Assembly would form, and establish upon generous principles, a Society of Arts and Sciences in this state, they would most certainly do great honor to themselves, and most eminent service to the public.