The candor in patients of this audience are requested, will a few reflections are deduced from the preceding observations.
1. It is undoubtably our duty to become acquainted with the laws of the land. That by which the commonwealth of Israel was governed was to be well studied by their statesmen, Deuteronomy 17. Especially those who are to be representatives of the people, could well understand the laws of their country: of those that of the profession are not as qualified to sit in fear of government, by virtue of their knowledge and state policy. It is the design of civil government to secure the rights of men, which should be held sacred; it being so nearly connected with religion, renders it important. — It is a subject to which we ought to pay attention, that we may be in a capacity to pursue the best measures to promote it. It is remark, notwithstanding our foundation, but they who make the widest mouths against divine revelation, are commonly those who know the least about it, and form their opinion on popular cant. Whether this is not often the case with many who set up against the good laws of the state, it is a matter worthy of inquiry. He they can arrange and condemn the Constitution and laws of his country, without information, and will judge of a matter before he hears it, in the view of Solomon forfeits the character of a wise man.
2. Is there such a connection between civil and religious order, then we ought to support the former, would we prove ourselves friends to the latter. Indeed he they can oppose and destroy the good laws of his country, as religious character is greatly to be suspected. — He that loves religion, will value and price that which tends to its support, and feels the influence of the idea in the text, If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do? Is it really the character of a good man, the affords his influence, his property, yes his life in the defense of his country, and called for. We should most cheerfully and part our substance for the support of the laws of the land, and strengthen the hands of the legislature when they are endeavoring to adopt good measures for raising a revenue. Many are complaining that the wages of the state officers are too high; were I to attempt a decision on this point, perhaps I should appear contemptible, as being destitute of Christian modesty and self-diffidence. That men who leave their families and devote their time and talents in their country’s cause, ought to have a compensation, as agreed in all hands, — what is an adequate reward, is difficult for those who live several hundred miles from the seat of government to determine; and honest man under such a disadvantage will feel a delicacy in determining, lest he might do injustice to his neighbor. He would not view that man qualified to be a representative of the people that would be exorbitant in his demands; and rather choose to refer it to the members on the spot, or the best judges of their own expenses and retrenchments. The common labor thinks that infringement on his liberty, if his wages are to be determined by him who hires him. Should we set up office to vendue [public auction] and make low wages the test of our elections, this would be an impious trifling with the sacred rights of men, and insult on the importance and dignity of government; and dissuade men of an ignorant, low and mercenary spirit, would creep into the seats of our preferment.
Our Blessed Lord has taught us, by precept and example, to respect civil government, and to render tribute to Caesar. We have the same sentiments in joined by St. Paul, Romans 13: “ Whoever resisteth the power, to receive to themselves damnation. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay you tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues.”
3. How absurd to discard the book, commonly called the Holy Scriptures and yet the advocates for good civil government! They are so coincident and congenial and their nature and tendency, that it is really a doubt whether man can, upon right principles, be an honest advocate for one, whose heart rises against the other. Hence it is, that those who have been votaries for religion, have generally been friendly to good civil authority. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and thy neighbor as thyself, is an opinion me of the whole Bible system. He that is acquainted with the laws of the land, will see that they mostly point to this great object, and are a sort of comment on, or a copy of the sacred oracles. The contempt of the Holy Scriptures, domination, anarchy, and immorality are inseparable companions.
It is truly strange to see men of genius and education plead for the good laws of their country, and yet [be] unfriendly to divine revelation; they have certainly a reciprocal reflection on each other, and their influence in a great measure stand and fall together.
Would we be hearty friends to government, let us value and conform to the written word of God, that her conduct may not appear glaringly inconsistent and contradictory.
4. We infer, that it is suitable for the ministers of the Gospel to enforce obedience to the laws of the state. And this way they discover a laudable regard for the rights and properties of their hearers, plead for religion, and espouse the cause of their divine matter.
Many think that state policy is a subject out of the sphere of Christ’s ministers, but they ought to seek the peace and good will of their people, by avoiding such matter; but he they cannot sacrifice his own reputation, his living, yea, his own life in the cause of religion, and the good of his country, has forfeited his character as a faithful ambassador of the Prince of Peace.
Paul was far from commending such clerical prudence as some plead for, Titus iii, put them in mind to be subject to the principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no man.
5. We may learn, why there is so many sedition acts in the Bible, since religion and good government are severely connected. One we have, Ecclesiastes 10:20, Cursed not the keying, no, not at my thought. Another we have, Exodus 27:28, Thou shalt not revile God, nor curse the ruler of thy people. We have the same a repeated in another section of God’s word, acts 25:5. Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. Compare Romans 13. The Apostle gives us direction how to escape the terrors of such laws, verse three, Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. When scandalous libels are cast at men in private life, they will have recourse to law for satisfaction: when ministers of state are wickedly and preached, why should the libel or go with impunity? Is not the crime enhanced by the dignity of the whole commonwealth? To the character of his chief magistrate, Oracle whole country, and be of less or no more importance than a man in private capacity? Can men think their liberties retrenched, when they cannot vent their spite and false invectives against civil rulers without detection? May we not as well cry out Aristocracy! Tyranny! And Oppression! Because we cannot commit the most daring outrage on the person, character and property of her neighbor, without being plagued with the molesting hand of civil authority? From such kind of liberty, good Lord deliver us!
6. The subject sets before us the importance of the present occasion. Since it is so necessary to maintain civil government; our lives, liberties and religion, and a sense, depend upon it. Men should be appointed who are friendly to religion or morality, by which they wilt be peculiarly attached to the good and wholesome laws of their country, on account of the benign influence they have on practical godliness. Men of wisdom and understanding, a force of stability, who will enforce the laws of the land by precept and example; who will not bear the sword in vain, but be a terror to evildoers, and a praise to them will do well. These are qualifications pointed out of the word of God, and ought to be software. Diffidence, and ecclesiastical and civil minister, is a distinguishing ornament. The magnitude of the object will cause the good statement true coil for thought and language similar to the chief magistrate of Israel, 1 Kings iii, “and now, O Lord my God, thou hast made me keying in stead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. Give therefore thy servant and understanding heart, to judge the people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this guy so great a people?” He that should thrust himself in office is a selfish man: is seeking his own, not the public good. Confidence in public opinion will dispose of man to acquiesce to their decisions about himself, unbiased by fools and flattery or bribery. He they would hire his neighbor to give him his suffrage, is to be suspected as an enemy to his country, and unfit to be instituted with its important concerns. He has already declared that he values his own judgment about himself above all others, and will perhaps the same sentiments and everything in which he is called to act. The true philanthropists wants his support of his country unsolicited, by which he is encouraged to undertake in its cause, and not from proud, selfish, or pecuniary motives. The dignity, modesty, and goodness of his mind, will render him incapable of holding himself up to view as a candidate for office.
Should the question be asked, how shall we know the men of virtue and patriotism? The answer is obvious and rationally decided by unerring wisdom, By their fruit you shall know them.
We inferred the integrity of a Washington or in Adams, from the invincible advancement they have manifested to the rights of man, through a long series of events, when they had it in their power to sell their country and accumulate millions to themselves. Suppose such men, who have risked their lives, their all, and a cause of freedom for many years, should in the last stage of their life turn traders, when they would have nothing to promise themselves but it was disgrace, confronts every dictate of reason and experience. Perhaps it is not possible for the human mind to have a firmer basis for confidence; and to impeach such characters, without better foundation than it ever has appeared to me, at least appears disingenuous, and argues that jealousy more cruel the grave.
Who can reflect on the fatigue, vexation, and hazard to which a Washington has been exposed in espousing the contested rights of his country, and not feel a sort of indignation to hear his character vilified and impeached without cause? Are these the returns he is to receive from ungrateful countrymen! It is true men are not to be idolized, but when we consider them as instruments qualified and raised up by God for great and peculiar service to mankind, it is undoubtedly our duty to love, honor and respect them.
If I’m not mistaken, we live in the day when her liberties are invaded, and the rights of men challenge beyond what we have ever experienced, and that under the soothing titles of Republicanism, democracy, and its sector. These are precious names if well understood; but when they are speciously substituted in the room of libertinism and licentiousness, they make us sick.
Our internal dissensions have an unfavorable aspect, and give pain to the human breast: by these things we lay ourselves open to foreign invasions, and augment taxation. Union and firmness in our country’s cause becomes us at such time as this — it is not a time for empty complement; effeminate cowardice; nor for temporizing, when our lives [are] at stake. Our enemies wish us to delay and debate and flatter, but they may make themselves matters of all our property at sea.
There is no harm for the freeborn sons of America to tell Frenchmen, that we will not give up our rights unless our lives go with them; that they were bought at the expense of too much blood and treasure to be trifled with.
That’s a very ghost of our brethren, who bled in their country’s cause, would haunt our imaginations?– That we treat with contempt the insolent demands of the Talleyrand, aided by a sly intriguing Directory, who would rest millions for our pockets to enslave us. — We may tell them and the most decisive unequivocal language, without loss of time, but we have a right to choose our own envoys, maintain our own neutrality, without the dictates of French despotism. Have we any evidence that the French nation are really seeking peace with us, while they refuse to treat our ambassadors, such as we send to accomplish the desirable object? While they thrust a dagger at our heart? Destroyer lives and property at every opportunity? May we not pertinently adopt the language of Jehu to Joram, II Kings ix.22. And it came to pass when Joram saw Jehu that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, what peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her which crafts are so many?
Do they wish for peace, let them come with the all with branch in their hand, and make us restitution for the millions of our property but they have wantonly destroyed; and be a shame for the innocent blood that they have mingled with the ocean, which calls for vengeance on both sides of the Atlantic. Then heaven dashboard peace shall erect her laurels on our shores, and glad the heart of every freeborn son of America.
Let us rise in defense of our country, and shudder at the thought of a French invasion; viewing the last drop of our blood to swallow sacrifice to be withheld when our rights, or religion, gay bar were all lie at the stake. It is not the design of this discourse to obstruct a free and candid examination and the political proceedings; this is a privilege belonging to every man, and no one has a right to take it from him.
It is a matter worthy of serious inquiry, whether our present Constitution and government have not the essential vestiges of free republicanism according to the true meaning of the term. Does it not originate in the free suffrages of the people; who have it in their power to appoint two, and dispose from office? Is it an infringement of our liberties to subject to the decision of the majority? True freedom does not consist in every man’s doing as he thinks fit, are following the dictates of unruly passions; but in submitting to the easy yoke of good regulations, and in being under the restraints of wholesome laws.
We should do well to examine whether we do not too much despise and undervalue the civil government independence that God by remarkable inter-positions of Providence has put into our hands. Whether our un-easiness under it has not provoked on diffidence to threaten her liberties, by letting loose a foreign power upon us. Let us learn to price and support the good and wholesome laws of our land, but heaven may be at peace with us.
But few, if any will own themselves advocates for French measures; but I hope it will give no offense to those who of late appear unfriendly tour present civil administration, if they are earnestly entreated to inquire, whether they are not practically espousing their cause, however good their intentions may be. But our foreign enemies consider them in this point of light, we have the clearest evidence, and are thereby encouraged to preserve in their lawless depravations.
We have heard that it is the character of the good man to be subject to higher powers. But civil authority ought to be opposed when it becomes to radical, and oppressive, is agreed on all hands. We should all do well to examine the motives by which we are actuated, perhaps they are selfish. It is sometimes a proud hottie disposition that sets men against government, and a thirst to get themselves into the chair. This made Absalom so dissatisfied with the government of Israel and caused him to disseminate dissensions among them, II Samuel xv.4. Absalom said, Moreover, though that I were made judge in the land, that every man who hath any suit or cause may come onto me, and I would do them justice.
On the whole, let us in all these things view the hand of the superintending Providence, but rule with over the nations of the earth, and disposeth of all offense, both in the natural and moral world, so as to accomplish the best good of the universe; will cause even the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder will restrain.
Let us repent of our sins, that are the cause of God’s controversy with us, and attain reconciliation with him through the mediation of Jesus Christ. Let us seek after a holy union of sentiment and affection in religion, and this will tend to unite us and other things, especially in that which is in some sense the barrier in support of it. The question would then become serious in general, if the foundations be destroyed what shall the righteous do? What is supported execute the good laws of our land, and endeavor to strengthen the hands of them who were well. Let no root of bitterness springing up in trouble is, for while the mind is under the influence of prejudice and passion we cannot attend any subject to advantage. We should exercise the spirit of love and forbearance toward those who differ from us, and endeavor to restore them in the spirit of meekness. May we all remember, but whatever zeal or attachment we may seem to manifest towards civil institutions; yet if we are not in our hearts and lives in some good measure reconciled to the law and government of God, we shall finally be placed with the workers of iniquity.