National Recollections the Foundation of National Character by Edward Everett

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National Recollections the Foundation of National Character by Edward Everett (1794 – 1865) was an American politician, pastor, educator, diplomat, and orator from Massachusetts.

How is the spirit of a free people to be formed, and animated, and cheered, but out of the store-house of its historic recollections? Are we to be eternally ringing the changes upon Marathon and Thermopylae; and going back to read in obscure texts of Greek and Latin of the exemplars of patriotic virtue? I thank God that we can find them nearer home, in our own country, on our own soil; — that strains of the noblest sentiment that ever swelled in the breast of man, are breathing to us out of every page of our country’s history, in the native eloquence of our mother tongue;—that the colonial and provincial councils of America exhibit to us models of the spirit and character, which gave Greece and Rome their name and their praise among the nations. Here we ought to go for our instruction;—the lesson is plain, it is clear, it is applicable. When we go to ancient history, we are bewildered with the difference of manners and institutions. We are willing to pay our tribute of applause to the memory of Leonidas, who fell nobly for his country in the face of his foe. But when we trace him to his home, we are confounded at the reflection, that the same Spartan heroism, to which he sacrificed himself at Thermopylae, would have led him to tear his own child, if it had happened to be a sickly babe,-—the very object for which all that is kind and good in man rises up to plead,—from the bosom of its mother, and carry it out to be eaten by the wolves of Taygetus. We feel a glow of admiration at the heroism displayed at Marathon, by the ten thousand champions of invaded Greece; but we cannot forget that the tenth part of the number were slaves, unchained from the work-shops and door-posts of their masters, to go and fight the battles of freedom. I do not mean that these examples are to destroy the interest with which we read the history of ancient times; they possibly increase that interest by the very contrasts they exhibit. But they do warn us, if we need the warning, to seek our great practical lessons of patriotism at home; out of the exploits and sacrifices of which our own country is the theatre; out of the characters of our own fathers. Them we know,—the high-souled, natural, unaffected, the citizen heroes. We know what happy firesides they left for the cheerless camp. We know with what pacific habits they dared the perils of the field. There is no mystery, no romance, no madness, under the name of chivalry, about them. It is all resolute, manly resistance for conscience’ and liberty’s sake, not merely of an overwhelming power, but of all the force of long-rooted habits and native love of order and peace.

Above all, their blood calls to us from the soil which we tread; it beats in our veins; it cries to us not merely in the thrilling words of one of the first victims in this cause,— “My sons, scorn to be slaves!”—but it cries with a still more moving eloquence—” My sons, forget not your father’s.”

Industry Necessary to the Attainment of Eloquence by Henry Ware Jr.

Henry_Ware_JrIndustry Necessary to the Attainment of Eloquence by Henry Ware Jr. (1794 – 1843) Minister, early member of the faculty of Harvard Divinity School, and first president of the Harvard Musical Association. He was a mentor of Ralph Waldo Emerson when Emerson studied for the ministry in the 1820s.

The history of the world is full of testimony to prove how much depends upon industry; not an eminent orator has lived but is an example of it. Yet, in contradiction to all this, the almost universal feeling appears to be, that industry can effect nothing, that eminence is the result of accident, and that everyone must be content to remain just what he may happen to be. Thus multitudes, who come forward as teachers and guides, suffer themselves to be satisfied with the most indifferent attainments, and a miserable mediocrity, without so much as inquiring how they may rise higher, much less making any attempt to rise. For any other art they would have served an apprenticeship, and would be ashamed to practice it in public before they had learned it. If anyone would sing, he attends a master, and is drilled in the very elementary principles; and only after the most laborious process dares to exercise his voice in public. This he does, though he has scarce anything to learn but the mechanical execution of what lies in sensible forms before the eye. But the extempore speaker, who is to invent as well as to utter, to carry on an operation of the mind as well as to produce sound, enters upon the work without preparatory discipline, and then wonders that he foils! If he were learning to play on the flute for public exhibition, what hours and days would he spend in giving facility to his fingers, and attaining the power of the sweetest and most expressive execution! If he were devoting himself to the organ, what months and years would he labor, that he might know its compass, and be master of its keys, and be able to draw out, at will, all its various combinations of harmonious sound, and its full richness and delicacy of expression! And yet he will fancy that the grandest, the most various and most expressive of all instruments, which the infinite Creator has fashioned by the union of an intellectual soul with the powers of speech, may b played upon without study or practice; he comes to it a mere uninstructed tyro, and thinks to manage all its stops, arid command the whole compass of its varied and comprehensive power! He finds himself a bungler in the attempt, is mortified at his failure, and settles it in his mind forever, that the attempt is vain.

Success in every art, whatever may be the natural talent, is always the reward of industry and pains. But the instances are many, of men of the finest natural genius, whose beginning has promised much, but who have degenerated wretchedly as they advanced, because they trusted to their gifts, and made no efforts to improve. That there have never been other men of equal endowments with Demosthenes and Cicero, none would venture to suppose; but who have so devoted themselves to their art, or become equal in excellence? If those great men had been content, like others, to continue as they began, and had never made their persevering efforts for improvement, what would their countries have benefited from their genius, or the world have known of their fame? They would have been lost in the undistinguished crowd that sunk to oblivion around them. Of how many more will the same remark prove true! What encouragement is thus given to the industrious! With such encouragement, how inexcusable is the negligence, which suffers the most interesting and important truths to seem heavy and dull, and fall ineffectual to the ground, through mere sluggishness in their delivery! How unworthy of one, who performs the high functions of a religious instructor, upon whom depend, in a great measure, the religious knowledge, and devotional sentiments, and final character, of many fellow-beings,— to imagine, that he can worthily discharge this great concern, by occasionally talking for an hour, he knows not how, and in a manner which he has taken no pains to render correct, impressive, and attractive; and which, simply through want of that command over himself, which study would give, is immethodical, verbose, inaccurate, feeble, trifling. It has been said of the good preacher, that” truths divine come mended from his tongue.” Alas! they come ruined and worthless from such a man as this. They lose that holy energy, by which they are to convert the soul and purify man for heaven, and sink, in interest and efficacy, below the level of those principles, which govern the ordinary affairs of this lower world.

 

The Moral and intellectual Efficacy of the Sacred Scriptures by Francis Wayland

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Moral and intellectual Efficacy of the Sacred Scriptures:

As to the powerful, I had almost said miraculous, effect of the Sacred Scriptures, there can no longer be a doubt in the mind of any one on whom fact can make an impression. That the truths of the Bible have the power of awakening an intense moral feeling in man under every variety of character, learned or ignorant, civilized or savage; that they make bad men good, and send a pulse of healthful feeling through all the domestic, civil, and social relations; that they teach men to love right, to hate wrong, and to seek each other’s welfare, as the children of one common parent; that they control the baleful passions of the human heart, and thus make men proficient in the science of self-government; and, finally, that they teach him to aspire after a conformity to a Being of infinite holiness, and fill him with hopes infinitely more purifying, more exalting, more suited to his nature, than any other, which this world has ever known,—are facts incontrovertible as the laws of philosophy, or the demonstrations of mathematics. Evidence in support of all this can be brought from every age, in the history of man, since there has been a revelation from God on earth. We see the proof of it everywhere around ns. There is scarcely a neighbourhood in our country, where the Bible is circulated, in which we cannot point you to a very considerable portion of its population, whom its truth have reclaimed from the practice of vice, and taught the practice of whatsoever things are pure, and honest, and just, and of good report.

That this distinctive and peculiar effect is produced upon every man to whom the Gospel is announced, we pretend not to affirm. But we do affirm, that, besides producing this special renovation, to which we have alluded, upon a part, it, in a most remarkable degree, elevates the tone of moral feeling throughout the whole community. Wherever the Bible is freely circulated, and its doctrines carried home to the understandings of men, the aspect of society is altered; the frequency of crime is diminished; men begin to love justice, and to administer it by law ; and a virtuous public opinion, that strongest safeguard of right, spreads over a nation the shield of its invisible protection. Wherever it has faithfully been brought to bear upon the human heart, even under most unpromising circumstances, it has, within a single generation, revolutionized the whole structure of society; and thus, within a few years, done more for man than all other means have for ages accomplished without it. For proof of all this, I need only refer you to the effects of the Gospel in Greenland, or in South Africa, in the Society Islands, or even among the aborigines of our own country.

But, before we leave this part of the subject, it may be well to pause for a moment, and inquire whether, in addition to its moral efficacy, the Bible may not exert a powerful influence upon the intellectual character of man.

And here it is scarcely necessary that I should remark, that, of all the books with which, since the invention of writing, this world has been deluged, the number of those is very small which have produced any perceptible effect on the mass of human character. By far the greater part have been, even by their contemporaries, unnoticed and unknown. Not many a one has made its little mark upon the generation that produced it, though it sunk with that generation to utter forgetfulness. But, after the ceaseless toil of six thousand years, how few have been the works, the adamantine basis of whose reputation has stood unhurt amid the fluctuations of time, and whose impression can be traced through successive centuries, on the history of our species.

When, however, such a work appears, its effects are absolutely incalculable; and such a work, you are aware, is the Iliad Of Homer. Who can estimate the results produced by the incomparable efforts of a single mind; Who can tell what Greece owes to this first-born of song? Her breathing marbles, her solemn temples, her unrivalled eloquence, and her matchless verse, all point us to that transcendent genius, who, by the very splendour of his own effulgence, woke the human intellect from the slumber of ages. It was Homer who gave laws to the artist; it was Homer who inspired the poet; it was Homer who thundered in the senate; and, more than all, it was Homer who was sung by the people; and hence a nation was cast into the mould of one mighty mind, and the land of the Iliad became the region of taste, the birth-place of the arts.

Nor was this influence confined within the limits of Greece. Long after the sceptre of empire had passed westward, Genius still held her court on the banks of the Ilyssus, and from the country of Homer gave laws to the world. The light, which the blind old man of Scio had kindled in Greece, shed its radiance over Italy; and thus did he awaken a second nation into intellectual existence. And we may form some idea of the power which this one work has to the present day exerted over the mind of man, by remarking, mat ” nation after nation, and century after century, has been able to do little more than transpose his incidents, new-name his characters, and paraphrase his sentiments.”

But, considered simply as an intellectual production, who will compare the poems of Homer with the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament? Where in the Iliad shall we find simplicity and pathos which shall vie with the narrative of Moses, or maxims of conduct to equal in wisdom the Proverbs of Solomon, or sublimity which does not fade away before the conceptions of Job or David, of Isaiah or St. John? But I cannot pursue this comparison. I feel that it is doing wrong to the mind which dictated the Iliad, and to those other mighty intellects on whom the light of the holy oracles never shined. Who that has read his poem has not observed how he strove in vain to give dignity to the mythology of his time? Who has not seen how the religion of his country, unable to support the flight of his imagination, sunk powerless beneath him? It is the unseen world, where the master spirits of our race breathe freely, and are at home; and it is mournful to behold the intellect of Homer striving to free itself from the conceptions of materialism, and then sinking down in hopeless despair, to weave idle tales about Jupiter and Juno, Apollo and Diana. But the difficulties under which he laboured are abundantly illustrated by the fact, that the light, which he poured upon the human intellect, taught other ages how unworthy was the religion of his day of the man who was compelled to use it. “It seems to me,” says Longinus, ” that Homer, when he describes dissensions, jealousies, tears, imprisonments, and other afflictions to his deities, hath, as much as was in his power, made the men of the Iliad gods, and the gods men. To man, when afflicted, death is the termination of evils; but he hath made not only the nature, but the miseries, of the gods eternal,”

If, then, so great results have flowed from this one effort of a single mind, what may we not expect from the combined efforts of several, at least his equals in power over the human heart? If that one genius, though groping in the thick darkness of absurd idolatry, wrought so glorious a transformation in the character of his countrymen, what may we not look for from the universal dissemination of those writings, on whose authors was poured the full splendour of eternal truth? If unassisted human nature, spellbound by a childish mythology, have done so much, what may we not hope for from the supernatural efforts of preeminent genius, which spake as it was moved by the Holy Ghost.

 

Abraham: In Search of Public Virtue; A Warning to America by Richard Price

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THE following discourse was composed in some haste, and without any particular attention to the stile; and it is now published, with the addition of a few Notes, partly in compliance with the request of some who heard it and, partly, because it has been misrepresented. The notice which the author has taken of public measures, is such as came necessarily in his way in discussing the subject he had chosen, and in considering the present state of the kingdom. This, however, is the first time in which he has entered into politics in the pulpit, and, perhaps, it may be the last.

G E N. 18: 32.

And he said, O let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once. Peradventure ten Shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.

YOU must all of you recollect that these words are represented as addressed to the Deity by the Patriarch Abraham, when he was interceding with him for the city of Sodom. There can scarcely be a more affecting representation; and it is not possible that on the present occasion, I should speak to you on a more proper subject. The calamity by which Sodom and the whole country round it was destroyed, is one of the most ancient as well as the most tremendous events, of which we have any account in history. We have a particular relation of it in the 19th chapter of this book of Genesis; and, throughout all the subsequent parts of scripture, it is referred to, and held forth as an example and a warning to other countries.—Thus in Jude we read, that Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, had been set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire; that is, a fire which totally consumed them, and which appeared to be even still burning, and would probably burn till the end of the world. So likewise in the prophecy of Jeremiah, the 50th chapter and 40th verse, it is said that Babylon should no more be inhabited for ever; and that as God had overthrown. Sodom and Gomorrah, and the neighboring cities, so should Babylon be overthrown. And in Deuteronomy the 29th and 23d, the prophetical denunciation against the children of Israel is, that if they forsook the Lord, and served other gods, their land should be turned into brimstone and salt and burning, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. And in Luke 17 and 28th and following verses, our Lord, in admonishing his disciples to vigilance, directs them to think of the security and carelessness of the inhabitants of Sodom, before God rained fire and brimstone from Heaven, and destroyed them all. It is in allusion also to this event, that in the Revelation (ch. 19:20, and 21: 8.) the future extirpation of anti-christian delusion,, and of the workers of iniquity, is expressed by their being cast into a lake burning with fire and brimstone.

That part of the land of Judea, where these devoted cities stood, was rich and fertile above all the other parts of Judea. In Genesis, chap. 13 we are told that when Lot separated from Abraham, he looked over all the plain of Jordan, and saw that it was well watered everywhere, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. This induced great numbers of people to settle in this part of Judea; and, particularly, it engaged Lot and his family to settle here. It was an extensive plain, bounded to the east and west by very high mountains, about seventy-two miles in length and eighteen in breadth. Here several cities were built, the principal of which were Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim and Zoar. The causes that produced the richness of the soil, and crowded this country with inhabitants, were such as at the same time produced a corruption of manners, and rendered its ruin unavoidable. The fertility of the soil proceeded from a warmth communicated to it by subterranean fires. And this, probably, joined to the ease and indulgences arising from a rich soil, contributed to enflame the passions of the inhabitants, and to render them so infamous as we are told they were for wickedness. But while they were rioting in voluptuousness, there was a dreadful enemy working below them, which had been destined by Divine justice to destroy them. The sun being risen upon the earth (as the history tells us) one morning; and Lot and his family (the only righteous persons left) having escaped by Divine direction, the flames burst forth, the whole country sunk at once, and water took its place. The Scriptures call this event God’s raining down from Heaven fire and brimstone. The truth is, that it was an event of the same kind with many that have happened since; or an eruption of liquid fire from the bowels of the earth, like the eruptions from volcanoes, attended with thunder and lightning and earthquakes. So shocking, in this instance, was the catastrophe, that a country, before one of the richest and best peopled in the world, was in one hour converted into a smoking lake, which has been ever since called the Asphaltic (1) lake, or the Dead Sea. The river Jordan had run through this country; but ever since it has discharged itself into this lake, and lost itself in it. Its water is salt and nauseous in the highest degree. Columns of smoke are seen at certain times to rise from it; and it is said, that in some parts of it ruins of buildings may still be seen [See Mr. Maundrell’s Travels, page 84, 85]. Profane historians, as well as the scriptures, bear witness to the calamity which befell these cities. Tacitus says, “that where “the Dead Sea now is, there were formerly fruitful fields and large cities, which were afterwards consumed by thunder and lightning.[Tacit. Hist. Lib. v. cap. 6] Josephus says, that the things which are related of Sodom are confirmed by ocular inspection, there being still visible relics of the fire sent from Heaven, and the shadows of the five cities. [Jos. deBell. Jud. Lib. iv. cap, 8]  In the book of Wisdom (10th chapter and 7th verse) it is said of the inhabitants of Sodom, that the waste land which yet smoketh, and the plants bearing fruit that never come to ripeness, bear testimony to their wickedness.

But it is most to my present purpose to give you an account of the notice which, in the verse before my text, the Deity is represented as giving to Abraham of his intention to destroy Sodom, and the intercession which Abraham is represented as making for Sodom. In the 17th verse, Jehovah is described as saying, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing whisk which I do? seeing that in him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; and I know him that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment. In the 22d verse we are told that Abraham drew near and said, Wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous persons within the city: Wilt thou not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?And Jehovah said, If I find in Sodom, fifty righteous, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak to the Lord, who am but dust and ashes. Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: Wilt thou destroy all the city for the lack of five?And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.And Abraham spoke yet again and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there.And the Lord said, I will not destroy it for the sake of forty.And Abraham said again, O let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Peradventure there shall be thirty found there.And the Lord said, I will not destroy it if I find thirty there.And Abraham said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord. Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.And Abraham said, O let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once. . . Peradventure ten shall be found there. And the Lord said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.

Such is the account in this chapter. I suppose there is no occasion for telling you, that it is not to be understood, that there was on this occasion exactly such a dialogue as this between Abraham and the Governor of the World. It is, I apprehend, a kind of parabolical representation, contrived to impress our minds, and to convey, after the manner of the oriental nations in ancient times, a more distinct and forcible instruction. Indeed, the whole account in this and the next chapter of the appearance of Jehovah to Abraham, of Abraham’s intercession, of Jehovah’s replies, of his promise to spare Sodom had there been found in it but ten righteous persons, and of the extraordinary care which was taken, by the interposition of heavenly messengers, to provide for the deliverance of righteous Lot; I say, this whole account is adapted, with the most striking propriety and energy, to convey to our minds some of the most useful and important lessons. It is, without doubt, founded on real facts, the manner only of telling these facts being to be considered as disguised and veiled by a mixture of allegory. Nor should we at all wonder at such a manner of relating facts, did we know how the ancients wrote history, or by what methods the memory of important events was preserved and transmitted from one generation to another before the invention of letters.

The remarks I have now made mould be attended to in reading many of the other accounts in this book of Genesis; and particularly those of the Creation, the Fall, and the Deluge.—But waving all observations of this kind, I would take occasion from the account I have read, to desire you to consider a circumstance in the scripture history which is very remarkable, and which distinguishes it from all other histories; I mean, the tendency which it has to display the justice and spotless holiness of the Deity, as the moral governor of the world. Other histories carry our views no higher than second causes, or the natural means by which events are produced; but this history constantly and uniformly carries our views to the first cause, and leads us to conceive of the providence of God as guiding the course of nature, and of his love of righteousness, and hatred of iniquity, as the springs of all the blessings enjoyed by nations, and of all the calamities which befall them. Thus, in the present instance, we are taught distinctly that the cause of the destruction of Sodom was the anger of the Deity against the inhabitants for their wickedness; and we are further led to form the most lively ideas of this truth, by being acquainted that had there been in it but ten righteous persons it would have been saved. The natural Causes which produced its destruction would, in” this case, either never have existed, or their operations would have been so directed as to suspend or prevent the calamity they produced. Nothing certainly can be more unreasonable, than to conclude that because an event has been brought about by natural means, therefore the hand of God has not been in it; or that, because we can trace the blessings and the sufferings of beings to certain powers, which are their immediate causes, therefore they can be under no direction from the moral government of the first and supreme cause, A little philosophy may incline a person to this conclusion; but a deep insight into philosophy, and’ an enlarged view of the laws and constitution of nature, will convince us of the contrary. Irreligion and atheism must be derived from miserable inattention and ignorance. True knowledge will necessarily make us devout, and force us to acknowledge that God is the cause of all causes, that his power is the source of all efficacy in nature, and his righteous providence the guide of all that happens.

But to return to the remark which occasioned these observations.—The Scriptures, I have said, direct us to conceive of God’s love of righteousness and aversion to wickedness, as the principles which influence him in determining the fates of kingdoms. He regards communities with particular favor, on account of the number of virtuous persons in them; and he gives them up to Calamity, only when this number is so inconsiderable as not to afford a sufficient reason for saving them. In such circumstances, or when virtuous men are very scarce among a people, they become, as this history teaches us, a devoted people, and they fall a prey to dreadful calamities and judgments.

But we are farther taught by this history, that when a people for their iniquities are visited with judgments, particular care will be taken of such righteous persons as may be left among them. This care will be different in different circumstances; but it will be always, such as will produce an infinite difference between them and the wicked part of a community. Sometimes it may extend so far as even to provide for their temporal security and happiness. When the country, to which they belong, comes to be devoted, they may perhaps be conducted by the hand of Providence to a region of peace and safety, where they shall escape the general desolation. Such was the privilege granted to Lot and his family. He was taken from Sodom, lest he should be consumed in its iniquity. Gen. 19, 15. And it is remarkable, that the messengers of Divine vengeance are represented as so anxious about his safety, that when he lingered, they laid hold of his hand and pulled him away, saying, as we read in the 5th verse, they could, do nothing till he was safe. How high an idea does this give us of God’s care of virtuous men in a time of public calamity? In merciful condescension to our low conceptions, he is described as not having power to destroy this wicked country while there remained in it one virtuous man.

But there is a circumstance in this account still more remarkable. The place to which Lot was allowed to fly was a little town in the plain of Sodom, afterward called Zoar, which was itself one of the five devoted cities, but is represented as spared on purpose to provide an asylum for Lot. His virtue could not weigh so much, or avail so far, as to save the country but, at the same time, such was the regard paid to it, that for the sake of it, a part of the country was preserved and given to Lot as a reward for his probity and piety in the midst of prevailing wickedness. As soon (we read) as he was safe lodged in this little city, the desolating tempest began, and all the country was swallowed up. Gen. 19th and 23d. When Lot entered into Zoar, Jehovah rained fire and brimstone from Heaven, and overthrew all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities. So precious is righteousness in the sight of Heaven; and such favorites with the Judge of all the earth are all who practice it. In conformity to the representation on which I am insisting we are led to conceive, that should there (in a time of public calamity) be no distant country provided by Providence, to which the righteous may fly, yet there may be some part of the devoted country itself spared on their account; and, that though their virtue may not avail so far as to prevent or suspend the effects of Divine resentment, yet it may render them less extensive and destructive.

You must, however, remember, that in the common course of things it is not to be expected, that in either of these ways God will manifest his care of the righteous. There may be no distant country to which they can fly, nor may an exemption for their sakes be proper of any part of the country to be destroyed and, therefore, it may be necessary they should remain in it, and share its fate. The present world, we know, the righteous often suffer with the wicked, and indiscriminate distress is permitted. In such circumstances, however, the Deity will still manifest himself a favorer and friend of the virtuous. The loss of worldly blessings will be made up to them by infinitely nobler blessings. Instead of that treasure on earth, which may be taken from them, they shall have a treasure in Heaven, and instead of a temporal, they shall be blest with an eternal deliverance. The distress, in which they may be obliged to share, will be alleviated to them by the reflection on their having done their part to save their country; by the unspeakable satisfaction attending the consciousness of their own integrity; by communications of grace and support to their souls; by a sense of God’s love to them; and the assured hope of an interest in his favor, and of a place under a government of perfect virtue and peace in the Heavens. These are springs of relief and felicity, which no calamities can destroy. They will communicate sweetness to the bitterest draughts and render distress an occasion of joy and triumph. The worst that any calamity can do to a good man, is to take from him that which he does not value. His proper happiness is always secure; and the enemy that tears him from this life removes him to a better. There full amends will be made to him for all those sufferings in which he may be involved by his connections with wicked men in the present state. It is, indeed, in the other world only that a perfect discrimination will be made between men, according to their different moral characters. It is there only that the wicked will cease from troubling, and the weary be at rest; the righteous receive an adequate reward, and the wicked an adequate punishment. Let us, amidst the shocking scenes to which we are witnesses in this world, keep our eyes fixed on that awful state of universal retribution; and never forget the period when (according to the assurance of our Savior) the wicked shall be severed from the just, and the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father.

These reflections may help to give you an idea of the importance of righteous men in a kingdom, and of the favor that will be shown them. It is to them that states owe their preservation. It is on them that the very being of a society depends; and when they cease or are reduced to a very small number, a nation necessarily sinks into ruin. But when this happens, and the Supreme Governor visits a nation with judgments, his providence watches over them, and we may consider him as saying to them in the words of Isaiah, 26th chapter and 20th verse, Come ye into your chambers, and shut your doors. Hide yourselves for a little moment, till the indignation be overpast; for behold I come out of my place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity. Or we may apply to good men in such circumstances the words in the 91st Psalm, thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flieth by day. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold the reward of the wicked. Because thou haft made the Lord thy refuge, there shall no evil befall thee. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and shew him my salvation.Behold, says the prophet Malachi, the day cometh that shall burn, as an oven, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble, the day cometh which shall burn them up, faith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name, shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings. Mal. 4; 1, 2.

I cannot close these remarks without observing, that the striking lesson on which I am insisting, is farther taught us in a very extraordinary manner, by the account given us in this book of Genesis of the universal deluge. There are undoubted proofs that such a calamity has happened. The whole face of nature, as well as universal tradition, bear witness to it. The history in Genesis represents it as an effect of God’s justice, or a judgment inflicted by him on mankind for their wickedness. All flesh (it tells us) was become corrupt, and the whole earth was filled with violence, insomuch that only Noah and his family were found righteous. Of this small remnant the Deity is represented as taking particular care, by forewarning them of the calamity, and directing an ark to be built for their preservation. Gen. 7:1. And the Lord said unto Noah, come thou and all thy house into the ark, for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Thus was a whole world destroyed for the wickedness of its inhabitants, except one virtuous family, which was preserved in an ark, and selected from the rest of mankind to be the founders of a new race.

The warning and admonitions, which such accounts give, should engage us to love and to seek righteousness above all things. When we consider what it is, we cannot wonder that it stands so high in the estimation of the Deity. It is his image in our souls. It is the foundation of all honor and dignity. It is the order by which the universe subsists. God, therefore, must delight in those who practice it, and we may with reason expect that his favor will extend itself to their connections; and that, on their account, .their families, their friends, and their country will be blest. I have been showing you that the Sacred History strongly inculcates this upon us. God will pardon a guilty nation for the sake of the righteous in it, if they are not too few. So we read in Jer. v. i. Run ye through the streets of Jerusalem, and see in the broad places thereof if you can find any one who executeth judgment, and seeketh the truth, and I will pardon Jerusalem. I can scarcely set before you a properer motive to the practice of virtue. If you are virtuous, you may save your country, by engaging God’s favor to it. Do you then love your country? Have you any desire to be the means of preserving and blessing it? If you have, do all you can to increase the number of the virtuous in it; or, should you despair of success in this, resolve at least that you will unite yourselves to that number. Thus will you be your country’s best friends; make yourselves powerful intercessors with the Deity for it, and stand in the gap between it and calamity. But should wickedness become so prevalent as to render calamity necessary, though, in this case, your country must suffer, yet care will be taken of you. Perhaps, you may be directed to some means of escaping from the common ruin; and a Zoar, or an Ark, may be provided for you, from whence you may view the storm, and find yourselves safe. Methinks, the friends of truth and virtue may now look across the Atlantic, and entertain some such hope. But should there be no resource of this kind left, the righteous will at least find resources of infinite value in their own minds; in the testimony of a good conscience; in the consolations of Divine grace; and the prospect of that country where they shall possess an undefiled and incorruptible inheritance.

My inclinations would lead me to address you some time longer in this way. But I must hasten to some observations of a different kind. My principal design on this occasion was to set before you the chief particulars in the characters of those righteous men who are a blessing to their country; and to point out to you the necessary dependence of the salvation of a country on such characters. I shall now desire your attention to what I shall say on these heads.

With respect to the character of those righteous men, who are likely to save a country, I would observe, First, that they love their country and are zealous for its rights. They obey the laws of the legislature that protects them, contribute cheerfully to its support, and are solicitous, while they give to God the things that are God’s, to give also to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s,. They are, therefore, loyal subjects. That is, they do all they can to promote the good order of the state by complying with its laws, and bearing a constant and inviolable allegiance to it. This alone is genuine loyalty; and not any attachment to the persons of princes, arising from a notion of their sacredness. There cannot be any notion more stupid or debasing. The people are the fountain of all civil jurisdiction, and theirs is the true majesty in a state. There is no individual, who, as a member of any community, is more sacred than another, except as far as he is invested with the authority of the community, and employed in executing its will. Civil governors are, in the intention of nature and reason, the servants (2) of the public; and whenever, forgetting this, they imagine they possess inherent rights of dominion, and attempt to establish their own authority, and to govern by their own will, they become dangerous enemies; and all that is valuable to a state requires they should be opposed. The righteous citizen, therefore, whose character I am describing, at the same time that he is loyal, can have no notion of passive obedience and non-resistance. His duty obliges him to enquire into his rights, and to be jealous of them; to attend to the manner in which the trust of government is discharged; and to do his part towards keeping the springs of legislation pure, and checking the progress of oppression. Thus only can he prove himself a worthy and useful citizen (3). It is a sad mistake to think that private men have nothing to do with the administration of public affairs; that there are mysteries in civil government of which they are not judges; and that, instead of ever complaining, it is their duty always to yield and follow. This is the same with saying that in every community the body of the people are only a herd of cattle, made to be led and disposed of as their owners please. Had such a vile principle been always acted upon, there would now have been no such thing as a free government upon earth, and every human right would have been overwhelmed under an universal and savage despotism.—It is thus, that in Religion, a set of holy usurpers have pretended that there are mysteries in religion of which the people are not judges, and into which they mould not enquire and that, for this reason, they ought to resign to them the direction of their faith and consciences. It would be a disgrace to virtue to suppose that it requires an acquiescence in such insolent claims; or that it is a part of the character of a righteous man that he is always ready to crouch to every tyrant, and never exercises his own judgment, or shows any sense of his own dignity as a rational creature and a freeman. Away with all such degrading and miserable sentiments. Let us remember that we are men and not cattle; that the sovereignty in every country belongs to the people; and that a righteous man is the best member of every community, and the best friend to his species, by being the most irreconcilable to slavery, the most sensible to every encroachment on the rights of mankind, the most zealous for equal and universal liberty, and the most active in endeavoring to propagate just sentiments of religion and government. In short, a virtuous man must be a firm and determined patriot. Power cannot awe him. Money cannot bribe him. He scruples no labor or expense in supporting any necessary measures of government; but at the same time he will resist any oppressive measures. If he is an elector, he is sure to give an uninfluenced and honest vote. If he is a magistrate, he is strictly just and impartial, a terror to evil doers, and a praise to all who do well. If he is a senator, he is uncorrupt and faithful. In every station he studies to promote the peace and prosperity of his country. He possesses integrity to assist in directing its councils, and courage to defend its honor and to fight its battles against all enemies.

Such is a righteous man in his public capacity, or as a member of a state. I must go on to observe that in his private capacity he practices every private and social virtue. He is industrious in his calling, upright in his dealings, and true to his engagements. He is a good husband, a good parent, a good neighbor, and a good friend, as well as a good citizen. Within the circle of his family and acquaintance, he maintains the same regard to equity and liberty, that he does in the more extended circle of his fellow subjects and fellow men. He renders to all their dues, honor to whom honor, custom to whom custom, and always acts to others as he desires that others would act to him. He is charitable and generous, as far as his abilities reach; but he avoids all parade and ostentation; and fixes his expenses below his income, that he may enjoy that happy independence which will place him above temptation. In every transaction of commerce, his fairness may be depended on. In the execution of every trust he is exact and faithful. He shuns all the excesses of pleasure and voluptuousness, never suffers his passions to carry him beyond the bounds of chastity and temperance, and within the enclosure of his own breast, where only one eye observes him, he is as just, and fair, and candid, as he appears to be on the open stage of the world.

Once more, He is conscientious and diligent in the discharge of all the duties of religion. This is the crowning part of his character. It is religion that gives dignity and efficacy to all our moral and public principles; nor is it possible there should be a consistent character of virtue without it. A virtuous man, therefore, must be a religious man. He worships God in private, in his family, and in public. He is governed in his whole conduct by a regard to the Deity; looks to him in all that happens; and joins constantly with his fellow-creatures in those social exercises of piety, which are the proper expressions of the homage and fealty which he owes to him as the Supreme Governor and Judge.

I will on this subject only add that the three particulars I have named are inseparable in a righteous character. Public virtue cannot subsist without private; nor can public and private virtue subsist without religion. As a truly virtuous and religious man must be a patriot, so a true patriot must be a virtuous and religious man. The obligations of righteousness are the same in all their branches, and a righteous man cannot violate them habitually in any instance Is it likely, that a man who is false to private engagements, will not be also false to public ones; or that a man, who, in his family is a tyrant, will not be likewise a tyrant as a magistrate? Is it likely that a man, who has given up to his passions his internal liberty, should be a true friend to liberty; or that a man, who will cheat his tradesmen or betray his friends, will not give a wicked vote, and betray his country? Can you imagine that a spendthrift in his own concerns will make an economist in managing the concerns of others; that a wild gamester will take due care of the stake of a kingdom; or that an unprincipled debauchee will make an upright judge or a sound statesman? Can a man who shows no regard to God his Maker, or to Christ his Savior; who is such an enemy to society as to neglect countenancing, by his example, those forms of worship on which the order of society depends; and so void of the fundamental principles of goodness, as to be capable of being habitually atheistical in his conduct: Can, I say, such a person possess any great regard for the interests of society?—Let us reject all such absurd imaginations. Treachery, venality and villainy must be the effects of dissipation, voluptuousness and impiety. These vices sap the foundations of virtue (4). They render men necessitous and supple, and ready at any time to sacrifice their consciences, or to fly to a court, in order to repair a mattered fortune, and procure supplies for prodigality. Let us remember these truths in judging of men. Let us consider that true goodness is uniform and consistent; and learn never to place any great confidence in those pretenders to public spirit, who are not men of virtuous characters. They may boast of their attachment to a public cause, but they want the living root of persevering virtue, and should not be depended on.

Having given you this account of righteous men, I am next to take notice of the causes which produce that dependence, intimated in my text, of the fate of a country on such men. This dependence is derived, first, from the natures of things. Such men are the health and vigor of a state. They are the order that preserve it from anarchy, and the vital springs which give it life and motion. When they are withdrawn, a nation as necessarily falls into ruin as a building falls when its pillars are destroyed, or as an animal body putrefies when the fluids stagnate, and the animal functions cease to be performed.—There is a distant country, once united to us, where every inhabitant has in his house (as a part of his furniture) a book on law and government [the Bible], to enable him to understand his civil rights; a musket to enable him to defend these rights; and a Bible to enable him to understand and practice his religion.—What can hurt such a country?—We have invaded, and for some time have been endeavoring to subdue this country. Is it any wonder that we have not succeeded? How secure must it be, while it preserves its virtue, against all attacks?

But Secondly; the dependence of states on the virtuous men in it is not only thus derived from the necessary course and operations of causes and effects, but from the positive will of the Deity. There is an invisible and almighty power which over-rules the operations of natural causes, and presides over all events. This power is a righteous power, and it must be friendly to the righteous; and therefore, will direct events for the advantage of the country where they reside. In consequence of the particular favor of God to them, and his delight in them, they stay his hand when lifted up to scourge a nation and we may consider him as saying, in the words already quoted, Gen. 19: 22, I cannot do anything till you are gone.

I am in danger of being too tedious on this subject. Nothing now remains but that I conclude with briefly applying the whole to the present state of this country.

On this occasion, I feel myself much at a loss how to address you, not knowing whether I should do it in the way of encouragement or despair. When I think of this congregation; when I recollect the many worthy persons among my acquaintance and friends; and consider what multitudes more there must be that I can never know, and in situations where perhaps I should not expect to find them—when I make only such reflections, I feel comfort, and am disposed to conclude, that all may be well, and that the number of the virtuous among us is still considerable enough to save us.

But when I extend my views, and look abroad into the world; when I consider the accounts I am often hearing of the court, the camp, and the senate, and the profligacy [shamelessly immoral or debauched] that prevails almost everywhere; I fall back into diffidence [meekness, humility], and am ready to believe there is no room for hope. . There are, it is true, among all our parties, political and religious, many excellent characters still left; but the comfort they give me is damped by the following considerations.

First; They are a smaller number than they were. Public and private virtue has been for some time declining. Never, perhaps, was there a time when men showed so little regard to decency in their vices, or were so shameless in their venality and debaucheries. When men are wanted for the business of any department of the state, do you ever find that only honest men are sought for; or that it is, on such an occasion, any objecting to a man that he scoffs at religion, or that he is known to be a drunkard, a gamester, an adulterer, or an atheist? What vacancies would be made in public offices, were all but men of pure manners and independent integrity taken from them?

As to Religion, nothing is plainer than that it was never at so low an ebb, Even among Protestant Non-conformists, the places of worship are almost deserted. In this great metropolis, several of our best congregations have sunk to nothing. Many are sinking, and few flourish. Our religious zeal is dying; and the most valuable part of the dissenting interest is likely soon to be ground to death between enthusiasm on the one hand, and luxury and fashion on the other.

But Secondly; Another discouraging circumstance in our present state is, that a considerable part of the righteous themselves, or of that description of men to whom we must look for the salvation of the kingdom, are only nominally righteous. They are a smaller number than they were; and of this number many are false and hollow. Nothing, indeed, is more discouraging, than to find that a man has been secretly wicked, who, for many years, has carried with him every appearance of the strictest probity and piety. We are all of us often making discoveries of this kind; and they have a tendency to destroy in us all confidence in our fellow-creatures. Take away from the honest men all that are dishonest, and from the religious men all the hypocrites, and what a melancholy reduction will be made of a party, which, without such a reduction, would be too small?—Among the persons to whom it is natural for us to look for the defense of our country, are those in high life, and among our senators, who have taken up the cry of public liberty and virtue, and oppose the oppressions of power. They seem, indeed,, a glorious band; and it is impossible not to admire their zeal. But alas! How often have we been duped by their professions? How often has their zeal proved to be nothing but a cover for ambition, and a struggle for places? How many instances have there been of their forgetting all their declarations, as soon as they have got into power? How often do you hear of their extravagance and immoralities? I have more than once, in the preceding discourse, spoken of Patriotism. I have mentioned it as one of the first and best qualities of a righteous man. But I have done this with pain, on account of the disgrace into which, what is so called has fallen. Patriotism, like Religion, is an excellent thing. But true Patriotism, like true Religion, is a scarce thing. In the State, as well as in the Church, there are , abominable impostors, who have blasted the credit of these divine excellencies to such a degree, that they cannot be mentioned as parts of a good character without an apology. Is it possible there should be a worse symptom in the state of a kingdom?—How mortifying is it to find the nation’s best friends falling so short as they do of our wishes? What measures for restoring a dying constitution? What reformation of abuses, what public points do they hold forth to us, and pledge themselves to accomplish? How little does it signify who are in, or who are out of power, if the constitution continues to bleed, and that system of corruption is not destroyed, which has been for some time destroying the kingdom? In short, where will you find the disinterested patriots, who are ready, in this time of distress, to serve their country for nothing?(5) Where will you find the honest statesmen, who are above making use of undue influence, and will trust for support to the rectitude of their measures; the virtuous electors or representatives, who fear an oath and have no price; or the professors of religion, who cannot be induced to do anything mean or base?—I wish not to be mistaken. I am far from meaning that none such can be found. I have acknowledged (and it is all my encouragement) that such may, be found among (6) all our parties. I only mean to intimate a doubt whether they are not blended with so many hypocrites, and decreased so much in number, as now no longer to make a body of men very discernible, and of sufficient consequence to save us. Would to God there was no reason for entertaining this doubt.

Perhaps we are, in general, too much disposed always to think the present times the worst. I am, probably, myself under the influence of this disposition; but, after studying to be upon my guard against it, I find myself incapable of believing that miserable declensions have not taken place among us.

As an evidence of this, and a farther alarming circumstance in the state of the nation, I would mention to you that levity and dissipation, and rage for pernicious diversions, which prevail among us. Not long ago play-houses were confined to London. But now there is scarcely a considerable town in the kingdom without them. In manufacturing towns they produce very bad effects; and yet there are not many of these towns where they are not established. Think here, particularly, of those scenes of lewdness and intemperance, our masquerades. These are late improvements in our public pleasures; but I question whether in Sodom itself anything much worse could have been found. We answer, indeed, too nearly to the account given by our Savior of this city before its destruction. They eat and drank. ‘They married and were given in marriage. They bought and sold, and planted and builded. That is, they enjoyed themselves in ease and mirth. They gave themselves up to sensuality and criminal indulgences, without thinking of any danger. But the same day that Lot went out, it rained fire and brimstone from Heaven and destroyed them all. Luke 17: 28. “With similar gaiety and security do we now give ourselves up to intrigue and dissipation in the midst of danger. Heaven is angry with us, and our existence is threatened; but it seems to give us no concern. In the course of a few years we have been reduced from the highest pinnacle of glory to the brink of ruin. A third of the empire is lost; and at the same time we see powerful enemies combining against us, our commerce languishing, and our debts and taxes, already insupportable, increasing fast, and likely soon to crush us. Not long ago, this would have produced an alarm which nothing could have quieted. In the last war, particularly, I remember that only the loss of Minorca threw the kingdom into a commotion, which cost an admiral his life, and produced a change of measures. But now, though in a condition unspeakably worse, the kingdom is insensible. We fly to feasts and amusements, and dance the round, of pleasure. The same measures go on. The same ministers direct these measures and sometimes we hear of new emoluments conferred upon them, just as if, instead of having brought us into imminent danger, they had saved us. One would have thought it impossible, that the stupefaction of luxury and vice could have proceeded so far in so short a period. But such torpors, like mortifications before death, have been the common forerunners of calamity. Seldom has it happened, when debauchery and extravagance and a pompous manner of living have come to their height, that they have not been followed by a sudden transition to slavery and misery.

I shall mention to you but one circumstance more that checks my hopes. I mean the fact just alluded to, or the uniform effect of all our public measures for the last four or five years. This is so remarkable, as naturally to dispose us to conclude that we are indeed forsaken by Heaven. Nothing has prospered. Several opportunities for getting back to security and peace have been neglected. Offers of reconciliation, which once would have been joyfully accepted, have been made too late. Every step has plunged us deeper into difficulties; so that now we see a quarrel about tea, which lenity and wisdom might have accommodated immediately, increased into a war more destructive than any in which this country has been ever engaged. Must we not in this see the hand of Providence? Does it not give us reason to fear that God, having no intentions of mercy towards us, ‘has infatuated our councils?—Will you give me leave to mention one particular, proof of this observation?

At the time the alliance with France was notified, it seems to me that an opening was left, by which we might have got back to safety and peace. The alliance was commercial and not exclusive;(7)  We might have consented to it, and determined to withdraw our forces from the colonies. Our situation was such as rendered this necessary; and, in consequence of it, we might in time have recovered their confidence, and secured, by a family compact, every advantage that could be derived from a connection with them. But we had not fortitude enough to consider properly our situation; nor wisdom and magnanimity enough to conform to it. National safety was forced to give way to national dignity. Hostilities against France were begun immediately. And now, with our strength spent, and public credit tottering, we seem to be just entering into a war with the combined powers of France, Spain, and America.

This is, indeed, a prospect so frightful, that I must turn my attention from it. Never did so dark a cloud hang over this nation. May Heaven avert the storm; or, if it must break, may its fury be mitigated, and the issue directed to the general advantage of the interest of truth, liberty and virtue. But, whatever happens, may you and I be found of the number of those righteous persons who have acted the part of faithful citizens, and with whom all shall go well for ever.

FINIS.

 

Footnotes:

(1)  That is, the lake of brimstone. The name of the Dead Sea has been given it from the immoveable stillness of its waters, produced by the bituminous and unctuous matter mixed with it, and floating upon it. Diodorus Siculus, (Lib. 10th, chap. 6.) in describing this lake, says, that though several rivers of sweet water empty themselves into it, the water of it is so bitter and stinking, that no fish can live in it; that great pieces of brimstone frequently rise from the bottom of it, and rest upon its surface like islands; and that the air on its coasts is so hot and infected by sulphureous steams, that the inhabitants are very unhealthy and short-lived. Tacitus calls it, lacus immense ambit u, specie marts, sapore corruptior, gravitate odoris accolis pestifer, Nejue venta mpellitur, neque piscet patitur,

(2) King James the First, in his first speech to his parliament, declared, that he “should never be ashamed to confess it his principal honor to be the Great Servant of the commonwealth.” But in the very same speech, he calls his people his Natural Vassals. It is, therefore, plain, he made this declaration from the same affected humility, or rather insolence, which has led the Pope to give himself the title of Servant of Servants.

(3) It is common to assert that resistance can be justified only in cases of extreme oppression. Mankind, in consequence of indolence and want of union, have generally acted agreeably to this principle; but it has lost the world its liberty. It implies, that resistance ought to be avoided, while oppression is growing, and till it becomes too late to resist successfully without setting every thing afloat, and producing dreadful convulsions. The truth is, that oppression cannot be resisted too soon; and that all the tendencies to it ought to be watched. Had this been always done, tyranny would have been crushed in its birth; and mankind would have been always happy. If an equal and virtuous representation of the people of a state makes an essential part of its legislature, this may be done easily, and every grievance may be redressed, as soon as it appears, without disturbance or tumult; and this forms one of the distinguishing excellencies of such a constitution of government as ours. But if through a general degeneracy, the representation becomes partial and corrupt, a despotism may arise from such a form of government, which will be the very worst possible, and under which no hope may be left, except from a calamity that shall destroy the means of corruption, and awaken to repentance.

Mr. Linguet, in a letter to Voltaire, says of the people, that they are condemned to have only hands, and that mischief arises, and all is lost, the moment they are put upon thinking, Voltaire observes in reply, that, on the contrary, all is lost when they are treated like a herd of bulls; for, in this case, they will use their horns, and sooner or later gore their owners to death. See Letter 8th and 9th in the collection of Mr, de Voltaire’s original letters.—Certain it is, indeed, that much greater evils are to be dreaded from the fury of a people, ignorant and blind, than from the resistance and jealousy of a people inquisitive and enlightened,

(4) Some of the expressions in this passage, and a few others in the latter part of this discourse, may perhaps be too strong. But I am not at liberty to suppress them. Every candid person must see that my views are general; and, should any one imagine the contrary, he will greatly injure me.

(5) One such the nation has lately heard of with admiration. I believe I am happy enough to know some more; and though their services may not be called for, God will recompense them

(6) In this I differ extremely from the learned and worthy and very liberal Bishop of Exeter, who (in a sermon preached on the 30th of January last, before the Lords spiritual and temporal) calls the great men who for some time have been opposing measures which have brought the kingdom near its last struggles, a desperate and daring faction. It is probable, therefore, that he thinks no good men can be found among them. This, at least, must be the opinion of the Archbishop of York, who, in a noted sermon, has called them a body of men, who are held together by the same bond that keeps together the “lowest and wickedest combinations” that is, “rogues and thieves,” as this censure was expressed in the pulpit. I have in this discourse been a little free in delivering censures; but had I delivered any such censures as these, I should have thought myself inexcusable.

(7) It was to become what it now is (offensive and defensive) Only in the event of its being resisted by this country.

THE LIBERTY OF THE INDIVIDUAL by John Stuart Mill

JohnStuartMill

THE subject of this Essay is not the so-called Liberty of the Will, so unfortunately opposed to the misnamed doctrine of Philosophical Necessity; but Civil, or Social Liberty: the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. A question seldom stated, and hardly ever discussed, in general terms, but which profoundly influences the practical controversies of the age by its latent presence, and is likely soon to make itself recognised as the vital question of the future. It is so far from being new, that, in a certain sense, it has divided mankind, almost from the remotest ages; but in the stage of progress into which the more civilized portions of the species have now entered, it presents itself under new conditions, and requires a different and more fundamental treatment.

The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history with which we are earliest familiar, particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England. But in old times this contest was between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the Government. By liberty, was meant protection against the tyranny of the political rulers. The rulers were conceived (except in some of the popular governments of Greece) as in a necessarily antagonistic position to the people whom they ruled. They consisted of a governing One, or a governing tribe or caste, who derived their authority from inheritance or conquest, who, at all events, did not hold it at the pleasure of the governed, and whose supremacy men did not venture, perhaps did not desire, to contest, whatever precautions might be taken against its oppressive exercise. Their power was regarded as necessary, but also as highly dangerous; as a weapon which they would attempt to use against their subjects, no less than against external enemies. To prevent the weaker members of the community from being preyed upon by innumerable vultures, it was needful that there should be an animal of prey stronger than the rest, commissioned to keep them down. But as the king of the vultures would be no less bent upon preying on the flock than any of the minor harpies, it was indispensable to be in a perpetual attitude of defence against his beak and claws. The aim, therefore, of patriots was to set limits to the power which the ruler should be suffered to exercise over the community; and this limitation was what they meant by liberty. It was attempted in two ways. First, by obtaining a recognition of certain immunities, called political liberties or rights, which it was to be regarded as a breach of duty in the ruler to infringe, and which, if he did infringe, specific resistance, or general rebellion, was held to be justifiable. A second, and generally a later expedient, was the establishment of constitutional checks, by which the consent of the community, or of a body of some sort, supposed to represent its interests, was made a necessary condition to some of the more important acts of the governing power. To the first of these modes of limitation, the ruling power, in most European countries, was compelled, more or less, to submit. It was not so with the second; and, to attain this, or when already in some degree possessed, to attain it more completely, became everywhere the principal object of the lovers of liberty. And so long as mankind were content to combat one enemy by another, and to be ruled by a master, on condition of being guaranteed more or less efficaciously against his tyranny, they did not carry their aspirations beyond this point.

A time, however, came, in the progress of human affairs, when men ceased to think it a necessity of nature that their governors should be an independent power, opposed in interest to themselves. It appeared to them much better that the various magistrates of the State should be their tenants or delegates, revocable at their pleasure. In that way alone, it seemed, could they have complete security that the powers of government would never be abused to their disadvantage. By degrees this new demand for elective and temporary rulers became the prominent object of the exertions of the popular party, wherever any such party existed; and superseded, to a considerable extent, the previous efforts to limit the power of rulers. As the struggle proceeded for making the ruling power emanate from the periodical choice of the ruled, some persons began to think that too much importance had been attached to the limitation of the power itself. That (it might seem) was a resource against rulers whose interests were habitually opposed to those of the people. What was now wanted was, that the rulers should be identified with the people; that their interest and will should be the interest and will of the nation. The nation did not need to be protected against its own will. There was no fear of its tyrannizing over itself. Let the rulers be effectually responsible to it, promptly removable by it, and it could afford to trust them with power of which it could itself dictate the use to be made. Their power was but the nation’s own power, concentrated, and in a form convenient for exercise. This mode of thought, or rather perhaps of feeling, was common among the last generation of European liberalism, in the Continental section of which it still apparently predominates. Those who admit any limit to what a government may do, except in the case of such governments as they think ought not to exist, stand out as brilliant exceptions among the political thinkers of the Continent. A similar tone of sentiment might by this time have been prevalent in our own country, if the circumstances which for a time encouraged it, had continued unaltered.

But, in political and philosophical theories, as well as in persons, success discloses faults and infirmities which failure might have concealed from observation. The notion, that the people have no need to limit their power over themselves, might seem axiomatic, when popular government was a thing only dreamed about, or read of as having existed at some distant period of the past. Neither was that notion necessarily disturbed by such temporary aberrations as those of the French Revolution, the worst of which were the work of an usurping few, and which, in any case, belonged, not to the permanent working of popular institutions, but to a sudden and convulsive outbreak against monarchical and aristocratic despotism. In time, however, a democratic republic came to occupy a large portion of the earth’s surface, and made itself felt as one of the most powerful members of the community of nations; and elective and responsible government became subject to the observations and criticisms which wait upon a great existing fact. It was now perceived that such phrases as ‘ self-government/ and ‘ the power of the people over themselves,’ do not express the true state of the case. The ‘people’ who exercise the power are not always the same people with those over whom it is exercised; and the ‘self-government’ spoken of is not the government of each by himself, but of each by all the rest. The will of the people, moreover, practically means the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people; the majority, or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority; the people, consequently, may desire to oppress a part of their number; and precautions are as much needed against this as against any other abuse of power. The limitation, therefore, of the power of government over individuals loses none of its importance when the holders of power are regularly accountable to the community, that is, to the strongest party therein. This view of things, recommending itself equally to the intelligence of thinkers and to the inclination of those important classes in European society to whose real or supposed interests democracy is adverse, has had no difficulty in establishing itself; and in political speculations the tyranny of the majority’ is now generally included among the evils against which society requires to be on its guard.

Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant—society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it—its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.

But though this proposition is not likely to be contested in general terms, the practical question, where to place the limit—how to make the fitting adjustment between individual independence and social control—is a subject on which nearly everything remains to be done. All that makes existence valuable to any one, depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other people. Some rules of conduct, therefore, must be imposed, by law in the first place, and by opinion on many things which are not fit subjects for the operation of law. What these rules should be, is the principal question in human affairs; but if we except a few of the most obvious cases, it is one of those which least progress has been made in resolving. No two ages, and scarcely any two countries, have decided it alike; and the decision of one age or country is a wonder to another. Yet the people of any given age and country no more suspect any difficulty in it, than if it were a subject on which mankind had always been agreed. The rules which obtain among themselves appear to them self-evident and self-justifying. This all but universal illusion is one of the examples of the magical influence of custom, which is not only, as the proverb says, a second nature, but is continually mistaken for the first. The effect of custom, in preventing any misgiving respecting the rules of conduct which mankind impose on one another, is all the more complete because the subject is one on which it is not generally considered necessary that reasons should be given, either by one person to others, or by each to himself. People are accustomed to believe, and have been encouraged in the belief by some who aspire to the character of philosophers, that their feelings, on subjects of this nature, are better than reasons, and render reasons unnecessary. The practical principle which guides them to their opinions on the regulation of human conduct, is the feeling in each person’s mind that everybody should be required to act as he, and those with whom he sympathizes, would like them to act. No one, indeed, acknowledges to himself that his standard of judgment is his own liking; but an opinion on a point of conduct, not supported by reasons, can only count as one person’s preference; and if the reasons, when given, are a mere appeal to a similar preference felt by other people, it is still only many people’s liking instead of one. To an ordinary man, however, his own preference, thus supported, is not only a perfectly satisfactory reason, but the only one he generally has for any of his notions of morality, taste, or propriety, which are not expressly written in his religious creed; and his chief guide in the interpretation even of that. Men’s opinions, accordingly, on what is laudable or blameable, are affected by all the multifarious causes which influence their wishes in regard to the conduct of others, and which are as numerous as those which determine their wishes on any other subject. Sometimes their reason—at other times their prejudices or superstitions: often their social affections, not seldom their antisocial ones, their envy or jealousy, their arrogance or contemptuousness: but most commonly, their desires or fears for themselves— their legitimate or illegitimate self-interest. Wherever there is an ascendant class, a large portion of the morality of the country emanates from its class interests, and its feelings of class superiority. The morality between Spartans and Helots, between planters and negroes, between princes and subjects, between nobles and roturiers, between men and women, has been for the most part the creation of these class interests and feelings: and the sentiments thus generated, react in turn upon the moral feelings of the members of the ascendant class, in their relations among themselves. Where, on the other hand, a class, formerly ascendant, has lost its ascendancy, or where its ascendancy is unpopular, the prevailing moral sentiments frequently bear the impress of an impatient dislike of superiority. Another grand determining principle of the rules of conduct, both in act and forbearance, which have been enforced by law or opinion, has been the servility of mankind towards the supposed preferences or aversions of their temporal masters, or of their gods. This servility, though essentially selfish, is not hypocrisy; it gives rise to perfectly genuine sentiments of abhorrence; it made men burn magicians and heretics. Among so many baser influences, the general and obvious interests of society have of course had a share, and a large one, in the direction of the moral sentiments: less, however, as a matter of reason, and on their own account, than as a consequence of the sympathies and antipathies which grew out of them: and sympathies and antipathies which had little or nothing to do with the interests of society, have made themselves felt in the establishment of moralities with quite as great force.

The likings and dislikings of society, or of some powerful portion of it, are thus the main thing which has practically determined the rules laid down for general observance, under the penalties of law or opinion. And in general, those who have been in advance of society in thought and feeling, have left this condition of things unassailed in principle, however they may have come into conflict with it in some of its details. They have occupied themselves rather in inquiring what things society ought to like or dislike, than in questioning whether its likings or dislikings should be a law to individuals. They preferred endeavouring to alter the feelings of mankind on the particular points on which they were themselves heretical, rather than make common cause in defence of freedom, with heretics generally. The only case in which the higher ground has been taken on principle and maintained with consistency, by any but an individual here and there, is that of religious belief: a case instructive in many ways, and not least so as forming a most striking instance of the fallibility of what is called the moral sense: for the odium theologicum, in a sincere bigot, is one of the most unequivocal cases of moral feeling. Those who first broke the yoke of what called itself the Universal Church, were in general as little willing to permit difference of religious opinion as that church itself. But when the heat of the conflict was over, without giving a complete victory to any party, and each church or sect was reduced to limit its hopes to retaining possession of the ground it already occupied; minorities, seeing that they had no chance of becoming majorities, were under the necessity of pleading to those whom they could not convert, for permission to differ. It is accordingly on this battle field, almost solely, that the rights of the individual against society have been asserted on broad grounds of principle, and the claim of society to exercise authority over dissentients, openly controverted. The great writers to whom the world owes what religious liberty it possesses, have mostly asserted freedom of conscience as an indefeasible right, and denied absolutely that a human being is accountable to others for his religious belief. Yet so natural to mankind is intolerance in whatever they really care about, that religious freedom has hardly anywhere been practically realized, except where religious indifference, which dislikes to have its peace disturbed by theological quarrels, has added its weight to the scale. In the minds of almost all religious persons, even in the most tolerant countries, the duty of toleration is admitted with tacit reserves. One person will bear with dissent in matters of church government, but not of dogma; another can tolerate everybody, short of a Papist or an Unitarian; another, everyone who believes in revealed religion; a few extend their charity a little further, but stop at the belief in a God and in a future state. Wherever the sentiment of the majority is still genuine and intense, it is found to have abated little of its claim to be obeyed.

In England, from the peculiar circumstances of our political history, though the yoke of opinion is perhaps heavier, that of law is lighter, than in most other countries of Europe; and there is considerable jealousy of direct interference, by the legislative or the executive power, with private conduct; not so much from any just regard for the independence of the individual, as from the still subsisting habit of looking on the government as representing an opposite interest to the public. The majority have not yet learnt to feel the power of the government their power, or its opinions their opinions. When they do so, individual liberty will probably be as much exposed to invasion from the government, as it already is from public opinion. But, as yet, there is a considerable amount of feeling ready to be called forth against any attempt of the law to control individuals in things in which they have not hitherto been accustomed to be controlled by it; and this with very little discrimination as to whether the matter is, or is not, within the legitimate sphere of legal control; insomuch that the feeling, highly salutary on the whole, is perhaps quite as often misplaced as well grounded in the particular instances of its application. There is, in fact, no recognised principle by which the propriety or impropriety of government interference is customarily tested. People decide according to their personal preferences. Some, whenever they see any good to be done, or evil to be remedied, would willingly instigate the government to undertake the business; while others prefer to bear almost any amount of social evil, rather than add one to the departments of human interests amenable to governmental control. And men range themselves on one or the other side in any particular case, according to this general direction of their sentiments; or according to the degree of interest which they feel in the particular thing which it is proposed that the government should do, or according to the belief they entertain that the government would, or would not, do it in the manner they prefer; but very rarely on account of any opinion to which they consistently adhere, as to what things are fit to be done by a government. And it seems to me that in consequence of this absence of rule or principle, one side is at present as often wrong as the other; the interference of government is, with about equal frequency, improperly invoked and improperly condemned.

The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him, must be calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say that this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. We are not speaking of children, or of young persons below the age which the law may fix as that of manhood or womanhood. Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as against external injury. For the same reason, we may leave out of consideration those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as in its nonage. The early difficulties in the way of spontaneous progress are so great, that there is seldom any choice of means for overcoming them; and a ruler full of the spirit of improvement is warranted in the use of any expedients that will attain an end, perhaps otherwise unattainable. Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end. Liberty, as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion. Until then, there is nothing for them but implicit obedience to an Akbar or a Charlemagne, if they are so fortunate as to find one. But as soon as mankind have attained the capacity of being guided to their own improvement by conviction or persuasion (a period long since reached in all nations with whom we need here concern ourselves), compulsion, either in the direct form or in that of pains and penalties for non-compliance, is no longer admissible as a means to their own good, and justifiable only for the security of others. It is proper to state that I forego any advantage which could be derived to my argument from the idea of abstract right, as a thing independent of utility. I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of man as a progressive being. Those interests, I contend, authorize the subjection of individual spontaneity to external control, only in respect to those actions of each, which concern the interest of other people. If any one does an act hurtful to others, there is a primd facie case for punishing him, by law, or, where legal penalties are not safely applicable, by general disapprobation. There are also many positive acts for the benefit of others, which he may rightfully be compelled to perform; such as, to give evidence in a court of justice; to bear his fair share in the common defence, or in any other joint work necessary to the interest of the society of which he enjoys the protection; and to perform certain acts of individual beneficence, such as saving a fellowcreature’s life, or interposing to protect the defenceless against ill-usage, things which whenever it is obviously a man’s duty to do, he may rightfully be made responsible to society for not doing. A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury. The latter case, it is true, requires a much more cautious exercise of compulsion than the former. To make any one answerable for doing evil to others, is the rule; to make him answerable for not preventing evil, is, comparatively speaking, the exception. Yet there are many cases clear enough and grave enough to justify that exception. In all things which regard the external relations of the individual, he is dejure amenable to those whose interests are concerned, and if need be, to society as their protector. There are often good reasons for not holding him to the responsibility; but these reasons must arise from the special expediencies of the case: either because it is a kind of case in which he is on the whole likely to act better, when left to his own discretion, than when controlled in any way in which society have it in their power to control him; or because the attempt to exercise control would produce other evils, greater than those which it would prevent. When such reasons as these preclude the enforcement of responsibility, the conscience of the agent himself should step into the vacant judgment seat, and protect those interests of others which have no external protection; judging himself all the more rigidly, because the case does not admit of his being made accountable to the judgment of his fellow-creatures.

But there is a sphere of action in which society, as distinguished from the individual, has, if any, only an indirect interest; comprehending all that portion of a person’s life and conduct which affects only himself, or if it also affects others, only with their free, voluntary, and undeceived consent and participation. When I say only himself, I mean directly, and in the first instance: for whatever affects himself, may affect others through himself; and the objection which may be grounded on this contingency, will receive consideration in the sequel. This, then, is the appropriate region of human liberty. It comprises, first, the inward domain of consciousness; demanding liberty of conscience, in the most comprehensive sense; liberty of thought and feeling; absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, moral, or theological. The liberty of expressing and publishing opinions may seem to fall under a different principle, since it belongs to that part of the conduct of an individual which concerns other people; but, being almost of as much importance as the liberty of thought itself, and resting in great part on the same reasons, is practically inseparable from it. Secondly, the principle requires liberty of tastes and pursuits; of framing the plan of our life to suit our own character; of doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow: without impediment from our fellow-creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse, or wrong. Thirdly, from this liberty of each individual, follows the liberty, within the same limits, of combination among individuals; freedom to unite, for any purpose not involving harm to others: the persons combining being supposed to be of full age, and not forced or deceived.

No society in which these liberties are not, on the whole, respected, is free, whatever may be its form of government; and none is completely free in which they do not exist absolute and unqualified. The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.

Though this doctrine is anything but new, and, to some persons, may have the air of a truism, there is no doctrine which stands more directly opposed to the general tendency of existing opinion and practice. Society has expended fully as much effort in the attempt (according to its lights) to compel people to conform to its notions of personal, as of social excellence. The ancient commonwealths thought themselves entitled to practise, and the ancient philosophers countenanced, the regulation of every part of private conduct by public authority, on the ground that the State had a deep interest in the whole bodily and mental discipline of every one of its citizens; a mode of thinking which may have been admissible in small republics surrounded by powerful enemies, in constant peril of being subverted by foreign attack or internal commotion, and to which even a short interval of relaxed energy and self-command might so easily be fatal, that they could not afford to wait for the salutary permanent effects of freedom. In the modern world, the greater size of political communities, and above all, the separation between spiritual and temporal authority (which placed the direction of men’s consciences in other hands than those which controlled their worldly affairs), prevented so great an interference by law in the details of private life; but the engines of moral repression have been wielded more strenuously against divergence from the reigning opinion in self-regarding, than even in social matters; religion, the most powerful of the elements which have entered into the formation of moral feeling, having almost always been governed either by the ambition of a hierarchy, seeking control over every department of human conduct, or by the spirit of Puritanism. And some of those modern reformers who have placed themselves in strongest opposition to the religions of the past, have been no way behind either churches or sects in their assertion of the right of spiritual domination: M. Comte, in particular, whose social system, as unfolded in his Systeme de Politique Positive, aims at establishing (though by moral more than by legal appliances) a despotism of society over the individual, surpassing anything contemplated in the political ideal of the most rigid disciplinarian among the ancient philosophers.

Apart from the peculiar tenets of individual thinkers, there is also in the world at large an increasing inclination to stretch unduly the powers of society over the individual, both by the force of opinion and even by that of legislation: and as the tendency of all the changes taking place in the world is to strengthen society, and diminish the power of the individual, this encroachment is not one of the evils which tend spontaneously to disappear, but, on the contrary, to grow more and more formidable. The disposition of mankind, whether as rulers or as fellowcitizens, to impose their own opinions and inclinations as a rule of conduct on others, is so energetically supported by some of the best and by some of the worst feelings incident to human nature, that it is hardly ever kept under restraint by anything but want of power; and as the power is not declining, but growing, unless a strong barrier of moral conviction can be raised against the mischief, we must expect, in the present circumstances of the world, to see it increase.

It will be convenient for the argument, if, instead of at once entering upon the general thesis, we confine ourselves in the first instance to a single branch of it, on which the principle here stated is, if not fully, yet to a certain point, recognised by the current opinions. This one branch is the Liberty of Thought: from which it is impossible to separate the cognate liberty of speaking and of writing. Although these liberties, to some considerable amount, form part of the political morality of all countries which profess religious toleration and free institutions, the grounds, both philosophical and practical, on which they rest, are perhaps not so familiar to the general mind, nor so thoroughly appreciated by many even of the leaders of opinion, as might have been expected. Those grounds, when rightly understood, are of much wider application than to only one division of the subject, and a thorough consideration of this part of the question will be found the best introduction to the remainder. Those to whom nothing which I am about to say will be new, may therefore, I hope, excuse me, if on a subject which for now three centuries has been so often discussed, I venture on one discussion more.

LEAVES FROM AN INTERPRETER’S NOTEBOOK. Rev. John Gardner, D. D. 1920

ChristianPatriotQuoteSelahVery interesting perspective I thought I would share. Very good insight into the love and mercy of God.

Leaves From An Interpreter’s Notebook; by Rev. John Gardner, D. D. published 1920

Psalm 93
In times of national calamity, when monarchs suffer eclipse and mighty empires are disintegrated, it is a great thing for some man to arise who has beheld visions of God, an Isaiah whose eyes have been opened to behold the Lord, high and lifted up, or an Ezekiel who has scanned the livid clouds and discovered at the heart of them the august and majestic presence of Him who reigneth forever and ever. Such a seer penned this psalm.

It ranks with the nineteenth psalm for majesty of conception and fervency of utterance. It enshrines the faith which made Israel invulnerable. Men might destroy their cities, blind their kings, rob their nobles of freedom, yet somehow or other the consciousness of heritage and of destiny never departed from them.

Maclaren says of the series of psalms reaching from the 93rd to the 100th: “Probably the historical fact underlying this new conviction of and triumph in the kingdom of Jehovah is the return from exile, but the tone of prophetic anticipation in these exuberant hymns of confident joy can scarcely fail of recognition. The psalmists sang of an ideal state, to which their most glorious experiences but remotely approximated. They saw not yet all things put under Him, but they were sure that He is king, and they were as sure, though with the certitude of faith fixed on His word and not with that of sight, that His universal dominion would one day be universally recognized and rejoiced in.”

Israel’s faith in the majesty of God made them see an authority presiding over every wild and lawless thing in nature. The surging sea, the thunderstorm, tempest and fire are all beneath His control. His majesty and strength are seen in the continuity of natural law, and in the fact that each year is crowned with fruitfulness. In the midst of the chance and change of the seasons there is consciousness of the fact that the universe is built on pillars that are strong. Let the waves of passion beat on the shore as furiously as they will, there is a limit to their striving, and soon they will be turned into submission.

Whatever the outward seeming might be, Israel turned to the thought of God’s house as the most comforting place in all the world. The awful majesty that subdues raging tempests reveals itself as the refuge and strength of His people, and therefore are they enjoined to approach that house with holiness.

Our Father, we thank Thee that the floods shall not overwhelm us, but that when we pass through deep waters Thou wilt be our comfort and stay. We pray that we may ever worship Thee in the beauty of holiness, that we may approach Thee with reverent awe. Keep back Thy servants from presumptuous sins, and let them not have dominion over us! For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 94

There are times when belief in the divine omnipotence is the most comforting of all our views of God, when we must know that the world is held in hand by One who is mighty. There are other times when it is imperative that we should know God as the judge of all the earth, who ‘will do righteously. When the faithful ones in Israel were coming to grips with Antiochus Epiphanes they needed to stand together, yet their rulers, including the high priests, became the allies of their foes and actually undertook to punish all who were faithful It was a time when men needed the martyr spirit. And it was a time when they needed to know that the foundations of God’s throne were justice and judgment. This psalm was composed for such a period.

Do not brand a man as hard and narrow and vindictive because he beseeches God to smite and burn the lies that vex our groaning earth. Be ashamed of yourself if looking upon the injustices and wickednesses which torture myriads of human hearts, you have imagined a cosmos which take such things for granted. Sainthood is the mother of compassion. The holy Chr-st trembles with compassion for those who are as sheep having no shepherd.

The psalmist looks on the arrogant rulers of Israel who give themselves airs, and exercise tyranny over the poor and defenseless. The widow and the fatherless, the stranger within the gate cannot protect themselves. A king is supposed to be a kinsman, a strong champion of the defenseless. These over-lords are brutally callous, and strike where they ought to soothe and heal. No one could so act unless he were a believer in a little god. Thank God, there have always been men of moral courage, who, though devoid of material resources, have yet been able to champion the people s cause and to declare the word of the Lord to the rulers of Sodom. As Maclaren says: “Ahab had his Elijah, and Herod his John the Baptist. The succession has been continued through the ages.”

Does oppression yield no benefit? Is not discipline educative? God trains men in a hard school. It is only through the fiery furnace that the eyes of tyrants gain a vision of the Son of God, and it is only in that furnace that men discover the greater Man who is their Comforter and their Saviour.

Do not undervalue that discovery. The way to heaven is narrow and blood-stained, but it is blessed to have heaven within the range, of your aspiring. And do not forget that heaven implies hell. It is a blessed thing to know not merely that by the cross you gain the crown, but also that eternal wrath is kindled against all iniquity and those who devise it. We have a great champion, and can rest on Him as our vindicator. Eternal justice is the foundation on which the heavenly order is to be reared.

O God, who art just in all Thy ways, we worship Thee! We thank Thee that the cause of the weak and the fatherless is Thine, and that Thou wilt do justly to the afflicted and destitute, and wilt rescue those who are weak and needy. We beseech Thee to arise in our time and to justify the confidence of those who put their trust in Thee. Deliver those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, protect all those who call upon Thee! Help us to become like Thee in justice and in compassion! For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 95

So much of what we call poetry is nothing more than musical speech. We like the sound of our own voices, and use phrases that are rhythmical, even though meaningless. This is true of many of our sacred songs. What, for example, is the meaning of the line, “With eyes majestic after death,” or “Beautiful isle of somewhere”? An oriental poet never writes like that; his phrases are full of meaning. This is best seen in the psalms. We have here a little poem of rejoicing in Jehovah as the creator and ruler of His people, and every phrase counts.

Our worship lacks spontaneity. We follow a routine, we sing by proxy, we seldom ejaculate a fervent hallelujah to Jehovah. The Hebrew puts us to shame, for his sense of God was so acute that the fleecy cloud, the murmuring breeze, the wild tempest, the foam-flecked sea, made him to rejoice and to shout aloud to God. Whenever he looked on the world as revealing

the majesty of God he was constrained to rejoicing, and when he surveyed the page of history or called to mind the Lord’s dealings with himself as with his fathers he was filled with reverent awe.

Do not be too much afraid of anthropomorphism. There is great comfort in believing in the pitying eye of God, in nestling in the everlasting arms, in trusting in the hand of the Almighty. It is blessed to know that we are the sheep of His hand. Maclaren says: “The repeated reference to the hand of Jehovah is striking. In it are held the deeps. It is a plastic hand, forming the land as a potter fashioning his clay. It is a shepherd’s hand, protecting and feeding his flock. ‘The sheep of His hand’ suggests not merely the creative but the sustaining and protecting power of God. It is hallowed forever by our Lord’s words, which may be an echo of it: ‘No man is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.'”

It is possible for us to fail in worship through our too eager exuberancy of speech. The silence of a modern congregation might be a good thing if it were devoted to attentive and reverent listening for the voice of God, but alas! It is not a silence at all. The congregation has hired people to make a noise, and it oftentimes is so loud that men and women come and go from God’s house without hearing a syllable of what the heavenly Father has been speaking to their hearts. This is the danger feared by the psalmist. It is possible for our natures to cease to react, for us to become truth-hardened. The Israelites had witnessed many wondrous deliverances and gracious interventions, and experienced marvelous guidance at the hands of God; yet they had grown insensitive, and had taken things for granted. Led by the cloud and pillar of fire they spoke of each day as common, they became ingrates, their hearts were estranged. So odious did they become that Jehovah hid Himself from them, and let them try their own ways until they found them bitter.

O Lord, forgive our presumptuous sins! Forgive us in that we have taken Thy guidance and protection for granted, and have not had regard for Thy will and Thy glory in the wondrous circumstances which Thou hast arranged for us! Perfect that which is lacking in our faith, wc beseech Thee! Help us to overcome the world, help us to conform ourselves to Thee in all things! For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 96

The nation that recognizes no responsibility beyond its own security and prosperity, that has no vision beyond its own frontiers, that does not know other peoples save for what it can get out of them, that has no sense of kinship with the world and of a common destiny with the rest of humanity, fails in all that makes for greatness. In the period following the exile Israel found her soul through her sense of mission to the peoples of the world. Instead of expecting all the nations to come to her she recognizes a duty to go to them. Instead of asserting superiority she invites them to amity, and asks them to use her altar fires. In her new temple the Gentile courts were spacious.

Alas! she lost the vision and cluttered up the Gentile courts with booths and weights and measures, turning what was holy into a market place, so that the first act of the Son of man when He reached the Temple after embarking on His mission was to hurl the money-changing tables out of the way, and clear a space for the Gentiles to approach.

The new song is one of gladness in the vision of Jehovah’s authority and sway as being over all. The gods of the Gentiles are nothing, and do nothing for their worshipers, they are impotent and worthless, but Jehovah is surrounded by majesty and splendor, strength and beauty. These are ministers waiting upon Him, these are the atmosphere surrounding His throne.

It may be long before all that the psalmist dreams of will be realized, but the Golden Age will come. Others weave legends of a golden age in the long ago; the man of faith says it is coming in the first or in the third watch.

The language of this psalm is borrowed from several other psalms. It shows men of faith agreeing that Jehovah cannot be limited, and that all men have their heritage in Him. These other people share in the priesthood of believers, and are invited to bring their offering and come into His courts.

See to it that your communion table is always open to reverent and obedient penitent hearts. Do not erect barriers and gates, but let men have free access to the heart of God.

In conclusion the psalmist sees all nature sharing the blessed life. It is the thought of Isaiah and of Paul. As Maclaren says: “A poet invests nature with the hues of his own emotions, but this summons of the psalmist is more than poetry. How the transformation is to be effected is not revealed, but the consuming fires will refine, and at last man will have a dwelling place where environment will correspond to character, where the external will image the inward state, where a new force of the material will be the ally of the spiritual, and perfected manhood will walk in a new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

Our Father, we would sing and make melody unto Thee because Thou art the judge of all the earth, and guidest the world with righteousness and compassion. We thank Thee for the assurance that one day we shall see all things made new, that nature will have reached perfectness, and the sons of men will know themselves as children of God. Hasten the coming of that day, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.

Psalm 97

Kent says: “This psalm is connected with Psalms 93 and 99 by the same impressive introductory formula, ‘Jehovah reigneth.’ Each of these psalms presents a vivid, majestic picture of Jehovah enthroned on high, ruling the universe with the principles of justice and righteousness. Few psalms express more nobly the spirit of worship. Nowhere in human literature is theology taught more impressively and effectively.”

On the other hand, Maclaren connects it with Psalm 96, saying it presents Jehovah as king but from a fresh point of view, representing His rule under the form of a theophany, [Theophany: Manifestation of God that is tangible to the human senses. In its most restrictive sense, it is a visible appearance of God in the Old Testament period] which may possibly be regarded as the fuller description of the coming of Jehovah with which Psalm 96 closes.

The first lesson to be learned is from the quotations with which the psalm abounds. This man builds on the past in the sense that he believes that what God was He is. It is a mistake to imagine that the Lord does not speak directly to men today. He always speaks to those who will listen. Because men could not hear or understand the words that Christ wanted to say has He refrained and does He mean to refrain from saying them? We must learn to say: “I will hear what God the Lord will say unto me: speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.”

The word does not need to be original in order to be new. It needs to be the word for this time. We do not outgrow the Bible. We shall find our knowledge of God coming as a revelation when we reopen our Bibles and relearn their contents.

Has God withdrawn His theophany because for the time there are mists and clouds hiding it? The psalmist waits for the mists to clear, and is expectant of a partial or complete revelation whenever the clouds break. If we felt the awe of the cloud we should be comforted by the bright light in the cloud. The psalmist is conscious that righteousness is the foundation of His throne, and that glory lies within the mantle of the cloud and shall one day burst on the sight of all. Behind the mystery he is ever sure of the holiness, righteousness, consuming fire, delivering power. Whenever God breaks through the cloud all nations shall know that almightiness expresses itself in loving-kindness. Every false thing which has frightened men will be revealed in its impotence.

In the hour when Jehovah is unveiled gladness will come into hearts which for a brief period were fearful and perplexed. We shall know in that day that when we revolt from evil we are beloved of God. No more wondrous fact exists than that while we were sinners Christ died for us. Yet our personal acquaintance with that love demands that because of it we recoil from and repudiate sin. What comfort there is in the words, “Light shineth forth for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart”

Dear Lord, we thank Thee that in the day when men imagined that the Son of God had been destroyed He was asserting His authority in heaven and in earth, and sending His gospel unto all nations. We adore Thee that in the world’s darkest hour the Spirit of God caused men to see visions and dream dreams, and we pray that we may go forth to do our work as those who have beheld Thy glory and know Thee as rejoicing in righteousness. For Thy name’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 98

Some think that originally this psalm was connected with Psalm 96. It is evident that its author was acquainted with the second part of Isaiah. The psalmist announces the facts concerning God’s deliverances, and responds to them with praise. He thinks the providences of God are self-evident, and must challenge the ends of the earth to adoring wonder and praise. God acts in accordance with His nature. He creates and destroys according to eternal principles. He continues the order of nature, the course of the sun through the heavens, the distillation of moisture, the changing seasons, whether men are good or bad. He so loved the world and commended His love toward the world that while we were yet sinners He gave His only begotten Son, and the attitude of the world to Him does not alter the fact. One day the ends of the earth will recognize the fact, and joy will flood the souls of men. God’s deeds are not dependent on our recognition of them.

More precious than sacrifices and burnt offerings is intelligent, soulful praise. God will never come to His triumph until all men spontaneously respond to the challenge of His loving-kindness and His righteous acts. One day the nations of the earth will share a common emotion and sing a new song in unison. In that day the divine sovereignty will be recognized by the travailing earth, which will have found her redemption and know that her mission is complete. Righteousness and equity are the foundations of the divine government of the world, and when the nations I have learned their lesson and bent themselves beneath the judgments of their Lord, then the universe will break forth into melody, and creation will enter into its rest.

Our Father, we thank Thee that Thou knowest those who are Thine, who grieve over everything that is hostile to Thy will, who are distressed at the abominations which are in the earth. Those who bear the cross shall share the crown. Help us to be faithful, grant unto us grace to endure! May we learn to fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ on behalf of the faithful! In His name. Amen.

Psalm 99

There is no sovereignty like that of holiness. Israel rejoiced in her divine king because His character was the guarantee of His triumph. Holiness combined with infinite power and knowledge seems to make God remote. What can mortals do but stand in awe of Him? And yet, if He is holy He must be just, and His sovereignty is the pledge of righteousness as triumphant in the earth. It is a great discovery to know that the universe is built on moral principles, and that the Judge of all the earth will execute justice and righteousness.

We know the vanity of trusting in the integrity and power of earthly potentates. Emperors and presidents, they alike fall short. Their judgments are partial; they are not impelled by love. Because Jehovah is holy, men may worship Him. This is the secret of Israel’s story. The fathers of the race made discovery of the character of God, and worship became the foundation of society.

Maclaren says: “From venerable examples the psalmist draws instruction as to the nature of the worship befitting the holiness of Jehovah. He goes deeper than all sacrifices, or than silent awe. There is a commerce of desire and bestowal between the holy Jehovah and us. But these answers come on certain conditions, which are plain consequences of His holiness, namely, that His worshipers should keep His testimonies, by which He has witnessed both to His own character and to their duty.”

The psalmist has learned that the very heart of holiness is love, and that it is the character of love to forgive. Yet love and forgiveness have moral qualities. Love does not condone, forgiveness is not blind compassion. There must be suffering where there is disease, and sin is disease. Penalties are inevitable to transgression, and Israel learned by bitter experience that God visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations. Only, when Israel is forgiven, it knows that love and goodness are at the heart of suffering, and penalty becomes a means of refinement and ennoblement.

Most gracious and most holy Father, who seekest worshipers who approach Thee in spirit and in truth, we beseech Thee to search us and prove us and see if there be any wicked way in us. Where we are found lacking, show us Thy compassion! Cleanse us from iniquity, and release us from the dominion and power of sin! Help us to love Thee with all our being! For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 100

There is an imperative in holiness which is felt by all men. Whether holiness displays itself as justice, purity or love it challenges the soul to reverent awe. Its authority is absolute. Worship is man’s response to the challenge of holiness. Because Jehovah is God the whole earth is commanded to pay Him homage.

Israel’s history is a witness to the character of God. All the earth can read the record. He has proved Himself a jealous God and a consuming fire, He has displayed His glory in loving-kindness and tender mercy. He has shown Himself a God of deliverances, a present help in trouble. This is the secret of Israel’s joy in worship. Her temple stands open to all the earth.

Maclarcn says: “The depths of sorrow, both of that which springs from outward calamities and of that more heart-breaking sort which wells up from dark fountains in the soul, have been sounded in many a psalm. But the Psalter would not reflect all the moods of the devout soul unless it had some strains of unmingled joy.”

Not only does Jehovah show forth His majesty in Israel’s story but also in all nature. His character is consistent. From everlasting to everlasting He is God, and His nature is definable in terms of goodness. Kindness is the key to the heart of God. We do well to sing:

“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.”

How can the beholders of loving-kindness withhold the homage of their hearts? No wonder the psalmist anticipates the day when Israel’s hosannas will be mingled with the praise of all the earth.

Our Father, we pray for grace to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. When we seek Thy face we would entreat Thee in His name; as we confront the circumstances of life and look upon the restless sea of human life we would be possessed of His spirit; when entering the garden of sorrow and facing the challenge of faith zee would learn from Him the secret of self-abnegation; when conscious of the approach of the last enemy we would be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. Help us so to live, we beseech Thee! Amen.

Psalm 101

Commentators have taken widely different views of the authorship of this psalm. Some have called it an ideal description of a Jewish king. Perowne thinks that it may have been written by David in the early part of his reign, when his heart was so true to his God, and Maclaren takes the same view. Kent, on the other hand, avers: “This psalm is an important historical document. In 1 Maccabees 14. [Maccabees also spelled Machabees, four books, none of which is in the Hebrew Bible but all of which appear in some manuscripts of the Septuagint.] 14 it is recorded of Simon, the Maccabean ruler, that “he strengthened all the distressed of his people, he was full of zeal for the law, and every lawless and wicked person he banished.’ There is every reason to believe that this psalm voices the ideals of Simon.” Whoever was the author, the psalm presents us with a mirror for rulers which has significance for all time.

First, a king should be a man of such integrity, moral courage, honor and justice that men can trust him. He is ideally a divine vicegerent, and therefore should build his life on the character of God, who is just and merciful. Every man should have a standard to which he conforms his motives and acts, and a king should take God for his pattern. This king builds his life on piety. In the next place, he recognizes his personal responsibility and the need for singleness of aim. Further, he realizes the influence of environment on judgments; a man is responsible for his friends and advisers. “Walk with wise men and thou shalt be wise, but the companion of fools shall smart for it.” Because of his responsibility this king beseeches God to dwell within him and to enable him to walk in a perfect way. No man is safe until he has made certain moral repudiations.

Second, a king should have a pure court The corruption in kings’ palaces has become a byword. The courtesan, the deceiver, the seeker for place and power, the slanderer, have wrought mischief in all countries and in all ages. This man will permit none but honorable men to occupy places of distinction. Maclaren says: “The vices against which he will implacably war are not gross crimes such as ordinarily bring down the sword of public justice. This monarch has regard to more subtle evils,—slander, superciliousness, inflated vanity. His eyes are quick to mark ‘the faithful in the land. He looks for those whose faithfulness to God guarantees their fidelity to men and their general reliableness. In that court dignity and office will go not to talent, or to crafty acts of senility, or to birth, but to moral and religious qualities.”

Third, this ruler will try to make his personal ideals the standards for civil and political life throughout the country. “Fast as evil springs under shelter of darkness, it shall be destroyed with the returning light. The allusion is, doubtless, to the oriental custom of holding courts of law in the early morning. Day by day will he exercise his work of righteous judgment, purging out all ungodliness from the Holy City.” We do well to have these verses in mind when choosing our rulers, remembering that as are the rulers so are the governed. Godly men have a great responsibility for the well-being of the state.

O Lord, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty Ruler of the universe, who dost from Thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth, most heartily we beseech Thee with Thy favor to behold and bless all who are in authority, and so replenish them with the grace of Thy Holy Spirit that they may always incline to Thy will, and walk in Thy ways! Endue them plentcously with heavenly gifts, grant them in health and prosperity long to live, and finally, after this life, to attain everlasting joy and felicity, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.

Psalm 102.1-11

These are the words of a personal sufferer. It may be that they have been taken up by a community of suffering saints, for somehow each man’s experience is the key to our common humanity. Originally, however, the words were not for liturgical use, but the expression of an individual’s anguish.

The psalmist was already acquainted with the outpourings of other singers of the songs of Zion. The wise man will fortify himself with the words of God, that he may draw upon them in days of trouble. This man is not a copyist; the words of Scripture are so much a part of himself that he uses them spontaneously to express his own emotion. His condition is pitiable. His life is passing as smoke, fever is burning in him, he is like one suffering from sunstroke, he is emaciated with suffering and pain. His anguish is mental as well as physical, and drives him in upon himself. He is as solitary as a pelican, which is described as the most somber of birds; he is like an owl in a ruined fortress, or a sparrow that has lost its mate and laments on the house top for hours. His enemies say that God has made a public spectacle of him.

That which adds wormwood and gall to his cup is the thought that he suffers because God is angry with him. Sin is the root of his misery. So terrible is God that He has thrust forth His hand and taken this poor man into His grip, and hurled him aloft and away as an utterly worthless and contemptible thing. The figure is so violent that one shrinks from the thought that any man could employ it of himself, and inclines to the idea that it must have been employed to describe the experience of Israel. If, however, it leads to a new and deeper experience of God as One whose every act is inspired by love and grace, and creates a belief that judgment is redemptive, then it can be read as a gospel. And that is what we find in the words which follow, and which are a song of Zion’s deliverance.

We thank Thee, O God, for that discipline whereby Thou dost separate that

in us which is excellent, which reveals us as Thy offspring, from that which is worthless. Thou dost test us and purify us, Thou dost sift us and sanctify us. Thou canst not be satisfied if we fail of the best. Give us grace to know Thy purpose in the midst of discipline, that so we may be submissive and patient, ever believing in Thy wisdom and love! For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 102.12-28

It is a great moment in a man’s life when facing his individual grief, or the calamities of the nation, he is constrained to say of God the omnipotent, “But Thou I” Perowne says: “This is the great consolatory thought by which he rises above his sorrow. He, the individual, may perish, but Zion’s hopes rest on her eternal King.”

And yet this might seem, as Calvin remarks, a far-fetched consolation. What is it to us that God changeth not, that He sitteth king forever, if meanwhile our condition is so frail and feeble that we cannot continue for a moment? His unchangeable peace and blessedness do but make our life seem the more complete mockery. But the psalmist recalls God’s promises to Zion, especially that great covenant promise: “I will dwell in the midst of you.” Resting on this, he feels sure that God’s children, however miserable their state, shall have their share in that heavenly glory wherein God dwelleth. Because God changes not His promise and covenant change not, and therefore we may ever lift our eyes to His throne in heaven, from which He will surely stretch forth His hand to us.

How can men face life unless their faith is rooted in a personal God whose name and nature they know? It seems as though each man ought not to risk life’s adventure until he has made the great discovery. Jacob’s life was vacillating until he had wrestled with his problem. To believe in a personal God is to believe in a set time for the revelation of His power and delivering mercy. He is interested in our ideals, and it is His purpose to make them actualities.

Because of what shall happen to us the whole world will learn to worship Jehovah. Maclaren says: “The psalmist’s confidence teaches us never to despair of the future of God’s church, however low its present state, but to look down the ages in calm certainty that however externals may change the succession of God’s children will never fail, nor the voice of their praise ever fall silent.”

There is more in this psalmist’s song than he himself imagines. When we turn to the Epistle to the Hebrews we find his language quoted as a fore-gleam of the coming Messiah in whom creation and redemption met and blended, in whom Jehovah’s actions were completed. Words uttered by one whose eyes had been washed by tears found their interpretation in Jesus, in whom God was manifest.

Our God, we praise Thee for the new day with which Thou hast blessed us. Once we were separate from Christ, now we are reconciled; once we had no lot in Thy kingdom, now we are enfranchised; once we were in a silent universe, now we hear and recognize Thy voice; once we had no hope, now our souls have found a sure anchorage; once we had no God, now we know Thee as our Father. Help us to live in the happiness of love! For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 103.1-5

“This psalm is a meditation as well as a prayer of adoration. Its appreciation of Jehovah’s character and attitude toward men, its childlike, filial trust, and its faith in His universal kingdom and rule, all connect it closely with the teachings of Jesus.” It is built on those words found in Exodus 34.6: “Jehovah, tenderly compassionate and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”

There is not one sad note in the whole of this psalm. From beginning to end it pulsates with joy. The psalmist is enraptured with God. He would not merely sing of the divine faithfulness, nor bow in reverent awe before the ineffable Presence, but he would challenge every faculty, his reason, his emotions, his will, his moral nature, everything that is high and good, to ascribe adoration unto Jehovah.

Our first betrayal is in our recollectedness. We take providence for granted. We accept the benefactions of God as matters of course. The psalmist will guard his soul against the sin of ingratitude. Therefore he recounts the wondrous mercies of which he has been recipient.

There is the blessing of forgiveness. When standing in the white light of love the soul becomes conscious of its blemishes and pollutions. If we may yet call upon God and know ourselves as the objects of His regard, it is because of His pardoning love.

There is the blessing of healing, not only of a body that is diseased but of a sick soul also. Augustine says: “Even when sin is forgiven thou still carriest about with thee an infirm body. Death is not yet swallowed up in victory, this corruptible hath not yet put on incorruption, still the soul herself is shaken by passions and temptations. But thy sicknesses shall all be healed, doubt it not! They are great, thou wilt say, but the Physician is greater. God made thy body, God made thy soul. He knoweth how to re-create that which He created, He knoweth how to re-form that which He formed. Only be thou still under the hands of the Physician.”

Not only does God rescue a man from the grave, He makes his life a beatification. The glory of God is His loving-kindness and tender mercy, and with these He crowns His beloved, He grants to him the secret of perennial youth. Maclaren says: “How should a man thus dealt with grow old? The body may, but not the soul. Rather it will drop powers that can decay, and for each thus lost will gain a stronger moulting and not be stripped of its wings, though it changes their feathers.”

Our Father, we would learn to keep silence before Thee. Our lives are like the surging sea, tossed by care and need. We pray for the grace of silence, that so we may hear what Thou hast to say to us. For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 103.6-9

What is the foundation of the psalmist’s confidence? It is the product of experience, but it is founded upon the declared character of God. Because the Lord reigneth in the exercise of righteousness, because He is declared to be the champion of the weak, because all history bears testimony to the character of His government of the race, because He has revealed His nature and His will through Moses to the children of the covenant, therefore the psalmist challenges every attribute of his being to adoration. “He is not spinning a filmy idea of a God out of his own consciousness, but he has learned all that he knows of Him from His historical self-revelation.”

Beware of those ideas which are merely the objectivisation of your best self and which vain men would label God, and of that talking to your best ideas which is foolishly misnamed prayer. Make sure that you bend your knees to God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and that He hears prayer.

The background of faith is the actuality of God’s reign in the earth, the belief that He intervenes. He is not silent, He has not created a vast machine and left it to work. He is in a world of free beings where wills may be set in defiance of His will and for the perpetuation of wickedness, and He has determined that justice shall triumph. Man’s safety and peace lie in the discovery of God’s ways of acting. Moses described the secret of a good man’s life when he offered the prayer: “If I have found grace in Thy sight, shew me now Thy way, that I may know Thee!” To that prayer there came a gracious answer: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” The psalmist builds on that word as the revelation of God, and great peace floods his soul.

If the Almighty were in eternal opposition to us, if there were no further revelation than that His face is against them that do evil, we should become fatalists rather than the children of eager anticipation. Isaiah tells us: “For not forever will I contend, and not perpetually will I be angry; for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.” God does not cherish a grudge against us. The champion of the oppressed, He is also full of wise understanding and tender solicitude. This is the foundation of the gospel, this is why men repent of sin; the goodness of Jehovah leads them to repentance. .

O God, we would rest in Thy love, we would surrender ourselves to Thy control. Help us to sit at Thy feet as Thy dear children, reveal unto us Thy way, grant us the spirit of self-forgetfulness in Thy service, help us to be sincere and to respond to the promptings of Thy Spirit! For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 103.10-12

God is not a harsh and vindictive judge. He has no pleasure in punishment. The Scriptures are full of the sorrows of God; He bears our sins and carries our griefs. His punishments are for our correction, and every one of them is potential with blessing.

Psalm 36 testifies: “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds”; and Psalm 57: “Thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and Thy truth unto the clouds.” So here the psalmist exults in the fact that as high as the heavens are above the earth, so mighty is His loving-kindness upon them that fear Him. The idea is that God’s love is immeasurable. We have no instrument by which we can gauge its magnitude and strength. As Maclaren says: “Traverse heaven to the zenith, and from sunrise to sunset, to find distances distant enough to express the towering height of God’s mercy and the completeness of His removal from us of our sins.”

The fact of God’s love is demonstrated by its relationship to our sins. The Bible is the only book in the world that frankly faces the sin of man in its relation to God; it is the only book that adequately describes sin; it is the only book that believes in its forgiveness. We start with the first sin and its penalty, we end with the invitation to take the water of life freely; between we have been shown the anguish of hell, where the fire is unquenched and the worm does not die, and we are told of the greater anguish of One who bore our sins and died that we might be forgiven. The Old Testament tells us that God will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea, that He will cast them behind His back, that “as far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” The New Testament tells us how and why He has done it, how the grace of God hath appeared bringing salvation to all men. Let us adore the Lord who can abundantly pardon!

Our Father, be with us as we go forth into life! Grant that we may not become so absorbed in our work that we forget our responsibility for the development of Christlike characters! May our souls become our chief concern, and their nurture our main business! Let the love df Christ become the constraining force in all our judgments! For His sake. Amen.

Psalm 103.13, 14

The last thought which men have entertained of God is that of father. The history of religion outside of Christianity is not the record of children meeting their heavenly Father. Fear hangs like a pall over the lives of the non-Christian world. It is difficult to persuade men who are not acquainted with the story of Christ that God is like a father. Someone has said: “Men said, God was like Hercules in the invincible strength with which He crushed the evils of the world and made an end of them. Later still Plato advanced the suggestion that God was like a ‘geometer,’ a thinker and fashioner, full of ideas and ideals. In this most wonderful and most gracious lyric, the 103rd Psalm, the seer surpasses all the great historical religions and pictures God to us as a pitiful, compassionate, sin-forgiving and soul-healing father, and thus supplies the basis for the most true, most worthy, and most inspiring conception of God.”

We need to begin our thought about life with the pity of God. It is the core of religion. Eight times over in the gospels we are told of Him who was the revealer of God: “Seeing the multitude He was moved with compassion.” Providence is the record of forbearance, adaptation, pity. The incarnation is the doctrine of the Son of God’s identification with lost humanity.

“He remembereth that we are dust.” Dust is synonymous with frailty. God knows us and our frailty, and pities us. He knows our frame, and remembers the duality of our nature, our ignorance, the incidents of our career, the force of circumstance, the tyranny of habit, the fetters of ignorance.

God’s pity is on them that fear Him. Fear is different from dread, fear is not to be identified with terror. Fear is the opposite of recklessness; it means reverence, recognizing the solemn responsibility of life. Ruskin says: “Among the children of God, while there is always that fearful and bowed apprehension of His majesty and that sacred dread of all offense to Him which is called the fear of God, yet of real and essential fear there is not any, but clinging of confidence to Him as their rock, fortress and deliverer.”

Our Father, we rejoice in the constancy of Thy presence. We thank Thee that even our transgressions do not hide us from Thee. Thine eye seest us in our sin as in our righteousness, and when our hearts cry out against us Thou art greater than our hearts, and declarest to us Thy message of love, Thy willingness to pardon. Accept our adoration, we beseech Thee! In Christ’s name. Amen.

Psalm 103.15-22

A being fragile as a potter’s vase needs to be handled gently. A life like a prairie flower, which expresses itself for a moment in beauty and fragrance and then wilts and withers, is pathetic in its weakness and appeals to the great Artificer. Sometimes the thought of human life as possessed of the frailty of a flower brings comfort to a man who watches those who do iniquitous deeds. It is a comfort to know that the mighty arm of oppression will lose its force. Sometimes it is tragic, as when we see a generation of struggling, aspiring, loving, hating men and woman passing away and leaving no trace behind. In those hours a man needs to make discovery of God the unchangeable, in order that he may remain a child of hope and realize the comfort of His presence.

Again we find comfort in the loving-kindness of God toward them that fear Him. As Perowne says: “As if to remind us that there is a love within a love,—a love which they only know who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, who fear Him and walk in His ways,—as well as a love which maketh the sun to shine, and sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust. In the next verse there is the same limitation, To such as keep His covenant, and to those who not only know but do His will. The blessings of the covenant are no inalienable right. Children’s children can only inherit its blessings by cleaving to it.”

From thought of self the psalmist listens to the universe, and learns that all nature is vocal. The challenge to his soul is met by the chorus of created things, mighty warriors of the air and sky, winds and lightnings and every force that expresses itself and fulfills the will of Him who sends it forth. Everything is articulate with praise. How then shall he who is the interpreter of nature remain silent? He will add his voice to the chorus, and sing his hymn of praise with every element of being.

Our Father in heaven, we pray that the light of life may shine within us, that in the hour when the Bridegroom comcth we may be found with our lamps trimmed and burning, our loins girt, our feet shod, our souls prepared. Teach us to wait for the coming of our Lord! Amen.

Psalm 104.1-4

The psalmist starts out with the idea of nature as the ever-changing vesture of God, and in this psalm we have an interpretation of the goings forth of the Eternal, and the response of nature to His presence.

The universe is not adrift in space, it is ordered and controlled by Him who made it and who directs its way. It is not capable of continuance without His wise control and supervision. God has not made the universe a finished thing. He only rested from His labor of creation when man appeared. Since then He has been active, renewing the face of the earth, leading all creation to its goal. Of each new generation it is true He giveth life and breath and all things.

Some have conjectured that the psalmist may have been in Egypt and become acquainted with certain Egyptian songs of creation, but anyone who has compared the sacred odes of other nations with those of Israel knows that there is a sublimity and purity and moral consciousness about these latter which make them unique. “The psalm is a gallery of vivid nature-pictures, touched with wonderful grace and sureness of hand.” It has been called the Psalm of the Cosmos.

Look then upon the activity of God. He takes to Himself a vesture of light. The vesture hides Him, yet expresses Him. Calvin says: “In comparing the light to a robe he signifies that though God is invisible yet His glory is manifest. If we speak of His essential being, it is true that He dwelleth in light inaccessible; but inasmuch as He irradiates the whole world with His glory, this is a robe wherein He in some measure appears to us as visible, who in Himself had been hidden.” How sublime are the divine actions! The speeding face of the sky is like the shaping out of a tent in which one would sojourn for a moment

Listen to the voice of the wind; how aloof, how solemn, how kind! Newman says: “But how do the wind and water, earth and fire move? Now here Scripture interposes, and seems to tell us that all this wonderful harmony is the work of angels. Those events which we ascribe to chance (as the weather), or to nature (as the seasons), are duties done to that God who maketh His angels to be winds, and His minister a flame of fire. Thus whenever we look abroad we are reminded of those most gracious and holy beings, the servants of the Holiest, who deign to minister to the heirs of salvation. Every breath of air and ray of light and heat, every beautiful prospect is (as it were) the skirt of their garments, the waving of the robes of those whose faces see God in heaven.”

“Father, we thank Thee for the world about us, and above, and beneath. We bless Thee for the austere loveliness of the wintry heavens, for those fixed or wandering fires which lend their splendor to the night, for the fringe of beauty wherewith Thou borderest the morning and the evening sky, and for this daily sun sending his roseate flush of light across the white and wintry world. Amen”

Psalm 104. 5-18

The psalmist’s view of creation is that beneath the heaving mass of waters God was forming the earth in all its beauty of hill and valley, watercourse and broadspreading prairie. In the moment of unveiling He rebuked the sea, and it was gathered within its bounds. No one has expounded the theme more eloquently than John Milton:

“Ye mists and exhalations that now arise From hill or streaming lake, dusky or gray Till the sun paint your fleecy skirts with gold, In honor to the world’s great Author rise. Whether to deck with clouds the uncolored sky, Or wet the thirsty earth with falling showers, Rising or falling, still advance His praise. His praise, ye winds that from four quarters blow, Breathe soft or loud. And wave your tops, ye pines, With every plant in sign of worship wave.”

The psalmist sees tokens of beneficence on every hand. Particularly does he lay emphasis on the watercourses, the rains and dews which are essentially gifts of God, and the generators of life to herb and beast and man. “The mountains are mentioned not only because on them the clouds rest, from them the streams descend, but because Palestine was a land of mountains and of valleys, ‘of the rain of heaven it drinketh water.'” The fruit of the earth combined with human industry provides a banqueting table as is described in verse 15. Jehovah is not sparing in His gifts, He bestows His blessings with a lavish hand.

Our God, who hast given to this age its solemn task, we pray that Thou wouldst enable it to make it nobler and stronger than the age that has passed. Grant that it may be guided and instructed by prophetic souls who shall establish what is right, and expose and condemn everything that is evil! Let it know the blessedness of pardoned sin, the privilege of sacrificial service! We ask it for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 104.19-35

Maclaren says: “With verse 19 the psalmist thinks of moon and sun only in relation to the alternation of day and night as affecting creatural life on earth. The moon is named first because the Hebrew day began with the evening. It is the measurer, by whose phases seasons (or, according to some, festivals) are reckoned. The sun is a punctual servant, knowing the hour to set and duly keeping it. ‘Thou appointest darkness, and it is night.’ God wills, and

His will effects material changes. He says to His servant night, ‘Come,’ and she comes.” Do not lose the poetry of life. Beware lest science blind the eyes of your heart, and the universe become to you a vast nothingness.

Very fine is the psalmist’s delineation of the business of the night. The hours in which wild beasts can issue from their lairs and pursue their hunting, are the hours in which man the worker may find rest and refreshment for the challenging moments of dawn. Man needs food, but unlike the beasts he cannot live by hunting. If he is to be a man he must live by digging and delving. The world lies around him rich in possibilities, his business is to create out of it a harvest field, a mine, a city of habitation. He creates a family, a society, a church. His manhood, all that is implied in the term humanity, is the product of work. Man finds the key to life in the words of Jesus Christ: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Man makes discovery of himself in his labor.

“Not God Himself can make man’s best Without best man to help Him. ‘Tis God gives skill, But not without man’s hands: He could not make Antonio Stradivari’s violins Without Antonio.”

Not only is there a poetry of night and of work, but also of the sea. Perowne says: “Then he remembers that there is one vast field of creative wonders of which as yet he has said nothing. The sea, too, has its life,—a life in its depths, of things small and great, a life of coral insect as well as of the whale, and also a life on its surface, where go the ships carrying the thoughts and the passions, the skill and the enterprise of human hearts.”

Happy indeed must God be in the music of the spheres, happy in beholding a world divinely fair, happy in witnessing the effort, the aspiration, the prayers of men. Happy should man be that he has such a God as creator and friend. Ashamed he ought to be in that his sin has marred the harmony of creation. No wonder that at last the human soul reaches an ecstasy, and cries for the first time, Hallelujah!

With gladsome minds we praise Thee, O God, for Thy kindness, Thy mercy and Thy faithfulness. We magnify Thee for the majesty of Thy strength, the infinitude of Thy resources. Thy bounty is on every, hand, Thy providence is over all Thy works. Help us to live before Thee in reverence, gratitude and obedient service! For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 105

Verses 1-15 are to be found in 1 Chronicles 16. The principle underlying the psalm is that we know what God is like by learning what God has done. The Bible is a statement of facts. God made the heavens and the earth and man. God called Abraham, God moulded Jacob, God overruled the malicious schemes of Jacob’s sons toward their brother Joseph, and turned a young man’s misery into a gospel for the human race. God was in Egypt, and in His own time called His sons out of Egypt. The whole of Israel’s story was a revelation of God to the nations.

If we were to think more on the lessons of history our lives would be more praiseful, and we should have greater confidence in the divine providence. Our praise is so empty because we have been shallow in our thinking. If we knew God as our ally life would assume a new significance.

Someone has spoken of the names ascribed to Israel as indicating their obligations as “secretaries of God’s praise.” God’s relation to Israel was of His own volition, the covenant which He made was because of His love, and the long record of His doings demonstrated His faithfulness.

Do not entertain vague ideas; become positive in your knowledge and belief that God is in your life and is guiding it in mercy. If the divine covenant implies obligations on His part, it also involves obligations on the part of His chosen. The covenant was renewed to each generation. God holds relationship to you as definitely as to your father and mother. Calamities do not imply change on God’s part; they involve suffering, but they also develop knowledge, strength, power; they lead to new discoveries of riches of mind and heart. The psalmist knows the whole dread story of Israel’s suffering in Egypt, but he knows that it was the pathway to glory. The tender mercy of God is over all His works.

We thank Thee, O God, that we have learned to trust Thy wisdom, and know that Thy will is good, when it holds us back as when it speeds us on our way. Thou dost sail life’s sea with us, and we shall not be destroyed, but shall reach the haven of our desire! Give unto us a deeper repose of soul, we beseech Thee! For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 106

This psalm deals with the same theme as the last, but from a different point of view. History vindicates God as true and righteous altogether; history is a long record of humanity’s failure to do and be according to its covenant. No man can study history without being inspired to a belief that at the heart of things there is invincible, everlasting justice. On the other hand, the historian knows the tragedies that arise from faults of temper. Kent says that in this psalm “the general theory of Israel’s history is that of the author of the book of Judges; it was a repeated cycle of rebellion, affliction at the hands of heartless foes, and divine deliverance.” It extols the goodness of Jehovah, and invokes His favor. It tells of His care over an ungrateful people during the exodus and in the wilderness and at Horeb as well as on the borders of Canaan. It continues the story at Baalpeor, Meribah, in Canaan, under the Assyrians and in exile. The soul cannot but exult in God, it cannot but be ashamed of Israel’s failure.

Israel occupies so unique a place in history because her patriots were ready to point out her failures, and she accepted the reproach and made it a litany. America suffers because she has been fed on Decatur’s words: “My country, may she always be in the right; but my country, right or wrong!” She needs to learn to accept rebuke, to humble herself before God.

This psalmist exults in God; the remembrance of the divine love brings happiness, and challenges to prayer. But the other side of things must be faced. The fathers have sinned, and their children have condoned their iniquity. The story of each generation is of faithlessness, ingratitude, obstinacy. Again and again there has been open rebellion against God, deliberate repudiation of morality, assault upon righteous leaders and holy institutions. They have bartered away their God, and got nothing but misery in exchange. When they became apostate they sank to the lowest depths. The gods they chose instead of Jehovah were bestial, and the service they rendered them was infamous. No wonder God was angry.

Yet the story does not end there. Jehovah’s love and compassion persisted, His patience and longsuffering continued through long generations. Prayer is answered, and God’s favor is restored to His penitent people again. No wonder that the psalm closes with Hallelujah!

O Love divine, infinite in tenderness and condescension, we trust Thee in the midst of our sorrows and distresses, for Thy nearness comforts us. When we go into dark shadows Thou art by our side; -when journeying through desert places Thou art as the shadow of a rock; when lonely and disconsolate the wind whispers Thy name and assures us of Thy presence. Blessed be Thy name! Teach us to rejoice in Thee! Through Christ. Amen.

Psalm 107.1-9

Kent says: “This psalm contains a strong liturgical element. The horizon is not limited to Palestine, but includes the distant lands of the dispersion. In imagination the reader beholds caravans making long journeys through the parched, trackless desert far away from inhabited cities. He shares their joy as at last they are guided to the populous, well-watered city which is the goal of their pilgrimage. He sees captives dragged into distant exile living the life of slaves, in bonds and afflicted by the lash of the taskmaster. Again the vision changes, and he shares the trials and the perils of sailors helplessly tossed by the storm. If not written in one of the lands of the dispersion this psalm is certainly from one who had traveled widely, and observed closely, and himself participated in the life that lay beyond the bounds of Palestine.”

The problem which every good man must face is this: in, times of suffering and calamity is it worth while praying to God? Is providence active? Does God will to interfere in response to the pleading of His children? The psalmist believes that God does interfere, that when trouble drives man to God He shows Himself ready and waiting to be gracious. To emphasize his belief the psalmist pictures life under a variety of figures, each graphically portraying human extremity and the divine intervention.

First, he shows us life under the figure of a caravanserai in the desert. There is nothing but a trackless waste, no oasis, no hillock from which to take your bearings, no water, no shade. Distress has laid its cruel hand upon their spirits. No knowledge of desert life and ways is of value. Their souls are submerged in despair, they are lost, they walk in a circle and ever come back on their tracks. In desperation they cry to God, and beseech Him to guide them in a straight line until they reach an inhabited place.

O God, who givest us all things richly to enjoy, we would not forget Thee in our joy at Thy gifts; we would not derive from Thee life and every good, and yet live as though there were no God. We pray that each day we may enjoy a larger revelation of Thy presence and Thy blessing. Help us to live for Thee, and to become each day more worthy to live with Thee! For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 107. 10-16

The man who wrote these words knew the prophecies of Isaiah. Compare Isaiah 42.7 and 49.9: “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners’ from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house”—”That Thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves.”

Israel had literally known the bondage that is the penalty of sin. The pity, the shame, the horror of it was in the soul of the prophets and psalmists. What does it mean? Is the lesson merely the fearful looking-for of judgment and fiery indignation that shall destroy God’s adversaries? No; there is a gospel of doom.

Punishment follows transgression. Sin blinds the soul’s vision and fetters the soul’s freedom, not because God delights in seeing the wicked suffer but yearns to protect the wicked from destruction. He is behind the fetters, as the social instinct is behind law in every civilized community. So He is near when man (or nation) comes to himself, when the heart sobs out its confession and pleads for the privilege of doing something in return for which it may eat spiritual food and dwell in the Father’s house.

Yes, sin drives us into exile, sin enslaves, sin generates the feelings, appetites and outlook of slaves, sin fetters, sin lays on us the lash of a harsh taskmaster. Maclaren says: “Is not godless life ever bondage? And is not rebellion against God the sure cause of falling under a harsher dominion? And does He not listen to the cry of a soul that feels the slavery of subjection to self and sin? And is not true enlargement found in His free service? And does He not give power to break the strongest chains of habit?” Yes, it is God who makes it hard for man to sin; it is God who snaps fetters and bids the enslaved man go forth into a large, free, righteous world.

O God, we thank Thee that Thou hast made our cars to hear Thy voice, and hast brought seeing to our eyes, and understanding to our hearts; that through Thy grace our nature is at last alive, and we begin to discover the strength of manhood. Thy love is forever wooing us. Thou callest us to possess the land of promise, and there to build a temple and a home. Help us to be wholly Thine! For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 107.17-22

Sin is not merely as confusing as a trackless desert in which the lost man wanders aimlessly, returning on his steps, without refreshment or shelter or hope, exposed to illusions and desperate; or the fettering of mind and soul driving us into exile, beclouding the vision; it also is like sickness that is the result of folly. This is the foolishness of sinning, that even when men begin to reap the harvest of suffering and disease they persist in their wickedness.

The penalties of wrongdoing are not merely physical, dire as the pains of transgression may be. Who does not know the sickness that follows loss of temper, the strain of nerve that is the result of avarice, the corruption that follows lust? The facts have been reported by text-books, by newspapers, by reports of doctors and magistrates. Yet these are not so awful as the sickness of soul that brings perversity, fear and all the horrors of death and judgment.

Yet these miseries drive us to God, and He answers through His word. He speaks healing words to the penitent soul, He makes known a gospel in the person of His Son, who bears our sins and carries our sorrows. Who can refrain from exulting gladness who knows that it is the Lord who healeth him?

Dear Lord, the desire of every human heart, we praise Thee for the healing of Thy presence, for the constraints of love which draw us to Thy heart. Men may not know that that which they crave is Thy presence, but Thou interpretest their tears and their sighing, and comest to them with healing in Thy wings. Help us to make Thee known! Hasten the day when Thy messengers shall have reached every clime and every people with the word of truth! For Thy name’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 107.23-31

A fourth picture of human misery finding its cure in God is found in a voyage on a storm-tossed sea. Perowne says: “It is painted as a landsman would paint it, but yet only as one who had himself been exposed to the danger could paint the storm, —the waves running mountains high on which the tiny craft seemed a plaything, the helplessness of human skill, the gladness of the calm, the sure refuge in the haven.” He goes on to quote Addison in the Spectator, who preferred this description of a ship in a storm before any other he had ever met with, and for the same reason for which “Longinus recommends one in Homer, because the poet has not amused himself with little fancies upon the occasion, as authors of an inferior genius whom he mentions had done, but because he has gathered together those circumstances which are the most apt to terrify the imagination, and which really happened in the raging of a tempest. How much more comfortable as well as rational is this system of the psalmist than the pagan scheme in Virgil and other poets, where one deity is represented as raising a storm, and another as laying it! Were we only to consider the sublime in this piece of poetry, what can be nobler than the idea it gives us of the Supreme Being thus raising a tumult among the elements and recovering them out of their confusion, thus troubling and becalming nature?”

There are souls who embark upon the perilous sea of life intent only on their business and their pleasure, who regard the awful majesty of God, yet without reverence. The tempests take them by surprise. Passion and desire sweep through them. The consequences of their wilfulness come back upon them in the furies. At first they brace themselves to the task of mastering circumstances, but ultimately their knowledge, skill, and cunning, their powers of endurance fail, and they fall back beaten and desperate. Then it is that they recognize their need of God, and in response to the cry of anguish He hushes the tempest into a zephyr, and leads them back to safety and to the challenge of the sanctuary.

True repentance leads a man into fellowship with God’s people. He who knows the blessedness of rescue from the furies feels the constraint of confession. He must tell what God has done for his soul.

Our Master, we thank Thee that our lives are known to Thee from their first dawning to their close. Our sufferings and griefs are understood by Thee, for Thou hast traversed our way. When we are tempted it is not beyond the intensity of testing which Thou didst bear. We rejoice in Thy presence, and in the sympathy and love Thou dost manifest to us. Help us to overcome, we beseech Thee! Amen.

Psalm 107. 33-43

Perowne says: “The character of the psalm changes at this point. We have no longer distinct pictures as before; the beautiful double refrain is dropped, the language is harsher and more abrupt. Instead of fresh examples of deliverance from peril and thanksgiving for God’s mercies we have now instances of God’s providential government of the world exhibited in two series of contrasts. The first of these is contained in verses 33-38, and expresses a double change,—the fruitful, well-watered land smitten, like the rich plain of Sodom, with desolation and changed into a salt marsh; and anon the wilderness crowned with cities, like Tadmor, and made fertile to produce corn and wine. The second is contained in verses 39-41, and expresses somewhat obscurely the changes in the fortunes of man (as the last series did those of countries), viz., how the poor and the humble are raised, and the rich and the proud overthrown.”

Many a man through sin finds his life turned into bitterness, the fertility in which he rejoiced becoming nothing more than a salt marsh. Sin is delusive. It promises adventure and achievement, it gives bitterness and barrenness. Sin is a withering blight on life. On the other hand, many a life that seemed ruined and dead, nothing but a salt marsh, has been made verdant, beautiful, life-giving, the habitation of all manner of beautiful and mighty thoughts and achievements. The miracle of the twice-born is the most romantic story the world has ever heard.

Sometimes wickedness asserts itself as tyranny. It attacks the innocent, and seizes the fair smiling land in which honest hearted men have built their homes, and to which they have devoted their strength. Yet God has a way of putting tyrants to confusion, and driving them forth into the desert where they have no wisdom with which to extricate themselves. Never imagine a war as ended where wanton invasion has not been put to shame. God’s actions startle wickedness into silence, while making good men exclaim: “It is the Lord’s doings, and marvelous in our eyes.”

Let us close with a prayer of Isaac Ogden Rankin.

O Thou who hast brought hope into our mortal life by the assurance of our Lord’s rising again as the first fruits of His brethren, help us to be more worthy of our immortality! Give us courage for all experiences, and suffer us not to be so tamely subject to the vexations of these passing days! Spirit of God, by whom we live, keep us ever in a joy above complainings! Let us not murmur when the way is hard, but rather with all gratitude remember that it is the way and Thou our guide! Help us to draw from deeper wells, that we may taste refreshment of the living water! Make all our days Thy care, and be Thou in all our confidence an inward peace! Richly hast Thou endowed us; give us grateful and expectant hearts to find Thee everywhere! O Thou, our rest, let no disturbing or unrestful word find outlet through the door of our lips, but make us always bringers of good cheer, to the glory of Christ! Amen.

Psalm 108

Some man of God wishing to express himself toward God drew upon the treasures of song, and put together Psalms 57, 7-11 and 60, 5-12. His people had met with a great victory, and he desired to sing a hymn of thanksgiving.

When he would challenge his glory to sing and play unto God he refers to his soul, to all his rational powers. God waits to be praised by the human reason. Not until a man has surrendered his intellectual powers in adoration of the majesty and goodness of God has he made the full surrender which will guarantee to him the blessedness of communion. This man would testify to the nation that Jehovah is a glorious God, whose loving-kindness and truth reach through the universe. This idea recurs in Scripture: “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.”

Matthew Henry thinks that this psalm teaches us how to pray as well as to praise. He emphasizes: (1) we must be public-spirited in prayer, and bear upon our hearts, at the throne of grace, the concerns of the church of God; (2) we must in prayer act faith upon the power and promise of God; what He has promised He will perform, for it is the word both of His truth and of His power; (3) we must in prayer take the comfort of what God has secured to us and settled upon us, though we are not yet put in the possession of it; (4) we must take encouragement from the beginning of mercy, to pray and hope for the perfecting of it; (5) we must not be discouraged in prayer, nor beaten off from our hold of God, though providence has in some instances frowned upon us; (6) we must seek help from God, renouncing all confidence in the creature; (7) we must depend entirely upon the favor and grace of God, both for strength and success in our work and warfare.

Our Lord and God, help us to praise Thee for the love Thou hast bestowed, and the pardoning grace Thou hast imparted. Thou didst seek us when we were far astray, Thou didst rescue us from the paths of death. When we were hopeless Thou didst change life into a song of triumph. Grant that our devotion to Thee may show our gratitude for all Thy benefits toward us! Amen.

Psalm 109

This is one of the imprecatory psalms. It is burdened with impassioned pleadings for vengeance. The psalmist cannot restrain his satisfaction at the various horrors which are to come upon his enemies. Driver says: “The psalmist here cries to God for help; he complains that certain malignant foes—we cannot say definitely who they are,—have, without any provocation on his part, brought against him false and malicious charges: ‘They have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my good will.’ Then he singles out, as it seems, the ringleader, and utters upon him a series of anathemas, imprecating upon him and his family misfortunes and trouble in every department of life. ‘Set Thou a wicked man over him, and let an accuser stand at his right hand.’ Let him, i.e., when arraigned in a court of justice have no chance of acquittal, let him have not only an august judge but a malicious accuser to bring about his ruin. When sentence is given upon him let him be condemned, and let his prayer be turned into sin, i.e., may his prayer to God for mercy have the very opposite effect, and draw down upon him the divine wrath!”

We will, not pursue the analysis of the psalm. The language is terrible. How did it-get into the Bible? We find similar language in Jeremiah. We find passages that make us recoil even in Isaiah. What have we to say?

First, these men had a keen sense of the conflict between good and evil. Israel was the champion of God, the nations of the earth were leagued against her. She was jealous for God. She could see nothing but chaos and ruin if God’s cause failed. God could not triumph in this terrible war unless His enemies were defeated. An enemy is not defeated without bloodshed and all the other horrors of the battlefield. The psalmist had not our knowledge, but as far as he knew the case was desperate, and he was fighting a hard and critical battle. This does not excuse, but it explains the temper of the times. Do we realize the crisis? Are we aware that good and evil are in a death grip? Do we feel the issue that is at stake? Is our supineness [indifference] nobler than vehement hate of wickedness?

Second, we must remember that men of a given age are to be judged by the standards of their age and not of another. The men of the Bible were of like passions with ourselves, and said and did many things which we revolt from and repudiate. They must be judged in the light of their times and civilization.

Third, these feelings are not Christian. They would have been intolerable to one who fully knew the spirit of Jesus. Yet they have recurred again and again among the followers of Jesus. The fact is, we are all liable to sin. It is true today: “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” We ought to be charitable; we often are far from it. We need to cry: “From envy, hatred and malice and all uncharitableness, good Lord deliver us!”

Our Father, grant that we may never be false to those glories which Thou hast placed in our hearts and souls! May our lives be blameless, may every faculty be active and at work, may we ever be learning from our Master how to behave so as to please Thee! For His sake. Amen.

Psalm 110

Perowne says: “This psalm claims emphatically to be the fruit and record of a divine revelation. The words of the poet, though shaped in the poet’s heart, come to him from the very sanctuary of the Most High. It is an oracle, an utterance of Jehovah, which he has heard and which he is to declare to others. It is an oracle which concerns a king who reigns in Zion; it is addressed to one to whom the poet does homage, calling him Lord; it assures him of the high favor of Jehovah, who lifts him to a share in His own regal dignity, giving him the victory over all his enemies.”

We have then an oracle, a whispered utterance, a revelation heard in the quietness of a man’s soul. How august was the office of a prophet, a man who heard God and uttered what had been whispered in quietness. The message is to a king who is going forth on a holy crusade, who shall bring his foes to the ground. Zion is to be the center of a mighty empire, all enemies shall be submissive and passive beneath his sway. It was a wonderful day when the king led his brave warriors into the battlefield; those soldiers were young and fresh and full of vigor, they had all the freshness of the dew. This king is also a priest, and his campaign is a holy crusade.

What does it mean?

Driver says: “In the Israelite monarchy was foreshadowed the sovereignty to be exercised in the future by David’s Son. Elevated, extended, and spiritualized, the aims and objects of the monarchy of David are the aims and objects of the kingdom of Christ. Like other prophecies, the prophecy of this psalm starts from the present and looks out into the future. We see an earthly monarch engaged in a struggle of flesh and blood and fighting bloody battles with his enemies. We see again traits which pass beyond the literal reality, and lend themselves to an ideal picture. It is in virtue of such traits as these that the psalm is Messianic, prefiguring One in whom they are truly realized.”

O God, the heavens and the earth are filled with the glory of Thy presence! Thy smile gives beauty to the flower. We praise Thee in the midst of Thy creation. Especially do we adore Thee as we realize Thy grace in the removal of the stain and defilement of our sin. We pray that our lives may be spent in Thy service, and that our fidelity may prove our love. For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Psalm 111

This is an alphabetical psalm, following the order of the Hebrew alphabet and consisting of twenty-two lines. It celebrates the acts, the glory and righteousness of Jehovah in the assembly of the upright.

The assembly is a more intimate circle than the congregation. They are concerned with God. True worship begins with God. So often we come to God’s house thinking of ourselves, our needs, our work; we are not prepared to meet with Him. “The psalmist begins by declaring that with his whole heart he will give thanks to God: and because to keep his thankfulness and his ascription of praise would be to rob God of half His honor, therefore will he give utterance to his feelings, and give utterance to them in the fitting place, in the congregation of the upright.” Let us not forget that confession of our allegiance to God is essential.

Men are apathetic and forgetful of God. They do not trace His glory, do not recall His graciousness and tender compassion. He has never failed them. History is a witness to providence. Experience is a Bible, telling of a love that is persistent and a forbearance that is infinite. A good man will take pains to instruct others in the fidelity of God to His covenant and the reality of His guidance. He sends redemption to His people in that He rescues them from foes and from those weaknesses of character which restrain them from seeking the land of promise. We need to know and to remember the statutes of the Most High, and that He demands from His children conformity to those ways which He has laid down for their guidance.

Teach us Thy way, O Lord, and help us to walk in it! Grant unto us a reverent knowledge of Thy will; help us to obey every law which Thou hast written in our bodies and souls, and in the lives of men, and all that is enshrined in human history; help us to grow wiser and better! May our religion show itself in our industry, in our doing what should be done, and bearing what must be borne! Help us to live and work for the coming of Thy kingdom! For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Source: Record of Christian Work, Volume 39; By Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt

RELIGIOUS FOUNDATION: Christian Ancestry of George Washington

The ChristianPatriot2Christian Ancestry of George Washington

George Washington descended from a long line of excellent churchmen. His great-great-grandfather was the Rev. Lawrence Washington, a clergyman in the Church of England. His great-grandfather, John Washington, “a man of military talent and high in the government,” came to America in 1657, settling in Virginia. He founded a parish which was named for him— “The parish of Washington.” “He was also a sincerely pious man.” In his will, he left a gift to the church, of “a tablet with the Ten Commandments,” and recorded his faith in this manner: “being heartily sorry from the bottome of my hart for my sins past, most humbly desireing forgiveness of the same from the Almighty god (my saviour) and redeimer, in whom and by the meritts of Jesus Christ, I trust and believe assuredly to be saved, and to have full remission and forgiveness of all my sins.”

His grandfather, also named Lawrence Washington, similarly expresses his faith in his will. His father, Augustine Washington, was active in parish affairs, and became a vestryman in Truro Parish, Virginia, November 18, 1735, when his son George was three years old.

On the mother’s side the line of churchmen is equally strong. Grandfather Ball was a vestryman, and Great-Grandfather Warner left his slender but excellent record by presenting to the parish church a set of silver for the holy communion. “The family of Balls was very active in promoting good things.” Washington’s uncle Joseph, in 1729, took the lead in a movement to educate young men for the ministry of the church. Mary Ball Washington (George’s mother), says Henry Cabot Lodge, “was an imperious woman, of strong will, ruling her kingdom alone. Above all she was very dignified, very silent, and very sober-minded. That she was affectionate and loving cannot be doubted, for she retained to the last a profound hold upon the reverential devotion of her son.”

If Washington’s military character was developed out of materials which came to him by inheritance from both sides of his family, so too was his religious character. That love of the church which we have seen as a distinguishing mark in his family became a strong inheritance which his own will and intelligence did not set aside.

Church Membership The parents of Washington were members of the Church of England, which was almost the only denomination of Christians then known in Virginia.

His Baptism The birth record of Washington is found in an old family Bible of quarto form, dilapidated by use and age, and covered with Virginia striped cloth, which record is in the handwriting of the patriot’s father, in these words:

George William, son to Augustine Washington, and Mary, his wife, was born the eleventh day of February, 1731-2, about ten in the morning, and was baptized the 3rd April following, Mr. Bromley Whiting, and Captain Christopher Brooks godfathers, and Mrs. Mildred Gregory godmother.

According to the present style of reckoning, the birthday was February 22, and the baptismal day April 14.

His Father

There are many stories of Washington’s boyhood which show that his father took great pains to teach George to be unselfish, inspire him with a love of truth, and teach him to know and worship God.

When George was eleven years old, his father died. Some months later he was sent to Westmoreland to live with his half-brother, Augustine, who occupied the family seat in that county. What the religious advantages were, which awaited him in his new situation, we have not the means to ascertain. There is no doubt that he enjoyed the privilege of public worship at the parish church, known then and now as Pope’s Creek Church. Here his attendance was probably habitual, as it was an age in which everybody in that region frequented the house of God whenever service was performed.

GWPrayerReligious Teaching By His Mother

In addition to instruction in the Bible and Prayer Book, which were her daily companions, it was Mrs. Washington’s custom to read some helpful books to her children at home, and in this way they received much valuable instruction. Among the volumes which she used for this purpose was one entitled Contemplations: Moral and Divine, by Sir Matthew Hale—an old, well-worn copy, which still bears on its title-page the name of its owner, “Mary Washington.” Those who are familiar with the character of Washington will be struck, on reading these “Contemplations,” with the remarkable fact that the instructions contained in them are most admirably calculated to implant and foster such principles as he is known to have possessed.

The volume was found in the library at Mount Vernon, after Washington’s death, and it appears to have been used by him through life. There are many pencil marks in it noting choice, passages.

“From that volume the mother of Washington undoubtedly drew, as from a living well of sweet water, many of the maxims which she instilled into the mind of her first-born.”

“Let those who wish to know the moral foundation of his character consult its pages.”

Washington’s Rules

In 1745, thirteen years old, Washington copied many things in a little book of thirty folio pages. One part was headed, “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” There were one hundred and ten of these maxims. “Scarcely one rule is there that does not involve self-restraint, modesty, habitual consideration of others, and, to a large extent, living for others.” The last three rules are as follows:

108th. When you speak of God or his Attributes, let it be Seriously & [with words of] Reverence, Honor & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be poor 109th. Let your Recreations be Manful not Sinful 110th. Labor to keep alive in your Breast that little Spark of Celestial fire called Conscience.

Poem On “christmas Day” When Washington was thirteen years of age he copied some verses on “Christmas Day,” beginning,

“Assist me, Muse divine, to sing the Morn,
On Which the Saviour of Mankind was born.”

Some think that he composed poems himself, but it is more likely that he copied them from an unknown source. It shows what manner of Christian training he had received at home. He had absorbed “the spirit of the Day and the facts of the faith, as well as the rule and model of Christian life.”

Godfather In 1747, at the age of fifteen years, young Washington was godfather to a child in baptism. In 1748, at sixteen, he was godfather to his niece, Frances Lewis. In 1751, at nineteen, to his nephew, Fielding Lewis, his sister’s first child, and his mother was godmother. In 1760, at twenty-eight, he again became sponsor for another nephew, Charles Lewis.

Goes To Mount Vernon In the summer of 1746, (Age 14) he finds his way to the home of his brother Lawrence, at Mount Vernon. From then until March, 1748, “George, it is believed, resided at Mount Vernon, and with his mother at her abode opposite to Fredericksburg. In that town he went to school, and as Mrs. Washington was connected with the church there, her son no doubt shared, under her own eye, the benefits of divine worship, and such religious instruction as mothers in that day were eminently accustomed to give their children. It was the habit to teach the young the first principles of religion according to the formularies of the church, to inculcate the fear of God, and strict observance of the moral virtues, such as truth, justice, charity, humility, modesty, temperance, chastity, and industry.”

Trip To The West Indies

In 1751 (Age 19) Lawrence Washington, on the advice of his physicians, decided to pass a winter in the West Indies, taking with him his favorite brother George as a companion. George kept a journal of this trip. They arrived on Saturday, November 3. The second Sunday we find this entry in his diary, which shows his habit of church attendance:

“Sunday, 11th—Dressed in order for Church but got to town too late. Dined at Major Clarke’s with ye SeG. Went to Evening Service and return’d to our lodgings.”

Before the next Sunday he was stricken with smallpox. A few days after his recovery he sailed for home.

The Christian Patriot; 2013
Source: George Washington the Christian By William Jackson Johnstone (1919)

FAITH’S FINAL AUTHORITY by Henry W. Frost; published 1920

TheGoodShepherdAlphaOmegaIt’s amazing to me how the Lord works, I can’t tell you how many times this sort of thing has happened to me. I found the following article because I went to look for a quote by Benjamin Harrison to make sure it was real, and to read it in its complete context. The book and only book brought up in the search contained the following article as titled above, and I as I began to read it, because that is what I do, it struck me once again that I had found something from history that could very well have been written for this day and time. It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord leads me unawares to things like this, it is simply astounding to me how often this kind of thing happens. The Lord is always performing small miracles if we only open ourselves up to them, he’s also still doing big miracles if you have faith growing as a mustard seed.

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” ~ Thomas Aquinas

BEGIN: FAITH’S FINAL AUTHORITY by Henry W. Frost; published 1920, in Record of Christian Work, Volume 39 By Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt

It is commonly acknowledged that these are days of intense and immense unsettlement. The foundation of things is being shaken and almost destroyed, and the cry is going up, “What can the righteous do?” The time has come when men’s hearts are failing them for fear, not knowing what the future will bring forth. What yesterday was certain, to-day is doubted and tomorrow will be disbelieved. The question is, What will remain? and, If there is certainty, where may it be found?

Moreover, this unsettlement and consequent disquiet exist amongst all classes of persons and in all the various relationships of life. Secular and religious periodicals indicate that the human mind is in a state of actual ferment, and this in respect to nearly every subject under the sun. Is monarchy or democracy the ideal government? Granting that democracy is the ideal, is it to be limited or unlimited? Is the proposed League of Nations from heaven and a gift from God, or is it from the pit and the work of Satan? Is the world getting better or worse? Is man immortal or only mortal? Is communion with the dead possible, and, if it is, is it lawful? Is Christ’s coming premillennial, postmillennial or nonmillennial? What part is the Christian to play in politics? Is he to abandon himself to them in the hope of saving the world, or is he to stand off from them as from a hopeless and contaminating task, giving himself to prayer and evangelization? What fellowship is a Christian to have with those who are not Christians, or with those who are, but are not true to Christ and His Word? What social pleasures are allowable? How is the Sabbath to be kept? What principles are to govern parents in the bringing up of their children? What is prayer? is it objective or simply subjective? What is the Word? is it inspired in whole, in part or not at all?  What is salvation? Is it to be obtained through service, suffering or sacrifice? And, if by sacrifice, by whose, one’s own or Christ’s? And who is Christ? Is He just Man or is He also God? If He is only Man, what can He do for men, or, if He is also God, what does He require of men?

And so the questions come in like a flood, from paper and magazine, from pew and pulpit, from quibbling minds and also from broken hearts. Some of us had thought that most of these matters had been settled long ago and that the issue of things had resolved itself simply into this: belief or unbelief. But we suddenly find that everything is once more in the melting pot; that serious-minded men and women are questioning realities: and that even Christians are demanding new solutions of old-time problems. We perceive, therefore, that every teacher of men is called upon to exercise infinite patience and to be ready to build again from the bottom upward; and, moreover, probably the teacher has problems of his own, which many years and much prayerful thinking have failed to solve. It is a time of mental and spiritual disorder in every sphere of life and in every part of the world.

And what makes the situation worse to many is that there seems to be no final court of appeal, especially in spiritual affairs, where cases may be argued and where just and final decisions may be obtained. There is a feeling that such a court should and must exist somewhere; but the question is, Where is it? So men conclude that herein is presented the greatest problem of all They declare that there are many voices in the world, each differing from the other, and no one knows which one is most Divine. Confusion is thus turned into what may only be described by Milton’s phrase:

“With ruin upon ruin, rout upon rout, Confusion worse confounded.”

And we have the spectacle thus of men stumbling forward in the dark, with their arms outstretched. They need a guiding hand, but they fail to find it. What, then, shall they do?

In this crisis, some say that we should turn to the pope. But if so, which one? Accepting Peter, for the moment, as the first pope, are we to test all the others by him, and if we are, what will be left of the others? But if we are not, which of the later-day popes are we to reckon as having spoken ex cathedra? This last is most perplexing, for there have been many popes, each one with a different dictum; twice over at the same time there have been two popes, each opposing the other; again and again a later-day pope has contradicted a former-day one, so that the benediction of the one has become the malediction of the other; and even the doctrine of papal infallibility, which one must accept if one turns to the Roman curia, was condemned as heresy by the popes themselves up to the time of Pius the Ninth, and by a large number of the cardinals even then; and to this day the theologians at Rome are not agreed as to what papal infallibility means. Tested by the necessary laws of harmony and unanimity we shall riot find final authority with the popes.

But others say that we should turn to the Church. If so, which Church? Shall it be the Roman, Greek, Armenian, Syrian, Nestorian, or Coptic? For, mark it, it will have to be a choice between these since they do not agree with one another even in things fundamental. Or, if we shall turn away from the historic churches to the reformed, where fundamental agreement is found, which Protestant Church shall it be? Shall it be the Church of England, Church of Scotland, Episcopal, Reformed Episcopal, Lutheran, Moravian, Presbyterian, Congregational, Baptist, Methodist or the Salvation Army? For, mark it, again, while these agree in essentials, they vastly disagree in nonessentials, which with the conscientious man are often tremendously vital. Or shall we make another effort and turn to the apostolic, simple and devoted people, the Plymouth Brethren? But to which party among these shall we go; the close, open or loose; the Darbyites, Newtonites, Cecilites, Ravenites, or Grantites? for we must differentiate even here. Alas I it is manifest that we shall not find union and unanimity even in the Church, historic or reformed; and this is certain, that we shall never get the harmonious note of authority from Scriptural and spiritual discord.

But still others say that we should seek to hear the authoritative word outside of organized ecclesiasticism, in that great consensus of opinion expressed by individuals through the ages and brought into full expression in these last days of grace. But can we place this consensus? Do any two men interpret and formulate it alike? Is it possible from book or sermon to define and express it? Even where it may be partly vocalized, is it clear, comprehensive and final? For instance, was the consensus voice in apostolic days the same as it was in mediaeval? and was it then what it is now, since men have been to war and slain the great dragon? And, in passing, what was the great dragon? Was it Kaiserism or sin in the human heart? And, if it was sin, was this slain and is it dead? If, then, sin is not dead, who knows what the consensus has to say about it, in national, social and personal life?

Moreover, what is this consensus which is so much talked about? is it a person or thing? Is it living or dead? Is it truth or shibboleth? Is it Divine or human? If it proves at last to be just human, then evidently we are back where we were at, the beginning, and in this case we are in the grip of the greatest religious mastodon of the ages, the genus homo, that is, our fallible selves. And, clearly, no one can hope that final spiritual authority will come out of a condition such as this. In short, if we may not go farther than we have gone, we shall find no final authority anywhere, and hence, we shall remain of all men the most miserable.

It is a relief now to turn away from such uncertainties, which are but vagaries, to a nearer, surer and more soul-satisfying consideration. There is a Book [the Holy Bible] which claims to be divinely authoritative, and we may affirm that there are facts about it which substantiate this claim, among which are the following:

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First, it is an old Book, all of it old and some of it very old, and no neglect, nor hatred, nor persecution, has ever been able to destroy it; which suggests that God fashioned it and has preserved it.

Second, the Book has proved to be a regenerating, transforming and comforting influence, through thousands of years, with millions of persons and in behalf of individuals of diverse characteristics and needs; which indicates that it has had within itself a power beyond the human.

Third, the Book touches upon history, art, poetry and science, formulates theology and expands experimental religion, and these diverse elements have been presented by men of different times, countries, races, social position, political environment and national and personal aspiration, and all this without a false or conflicting statement within it, and with a perfect harmonization and development of truth: which implies the presence and power of the miraculous.

Fourth, the Book is prophetic in the major portion of it. and its foretellings have often anticipated thousands of years, multitudes of people and a multiplicity of events, including the largest possible national movements and also the smallest possible personal details, and its utterances have never yet failed nor been once discredited: which manifests elements of foreview and predetermination which are nothing less than Divine.

And. finally, it is beyond doubting that whatever measure of infallibility there has been amongst men has come from the Book, and that all past and present confusion has developed, not from it, but only from man’s failure to understand and interpret it aright; which proves beyond controversy that the Book is a light shining in a dark place, a voice which has a divinely certain sound, a sacred dictum, an ultimate dogma, the ex cathedra [with authority] utterance of the living God. Here, then, faith may rest, for here is final authority.

Here, however, the heart falters. For each of us rightly asks: Who am I that I should think myself to be better than other men? And what chance of success in interpreting the Bible may I hope for when men at large have so widely disagreed concerning it? This indeed is searching and solemnizing; it is even discouraging and disheartening, particularly since the very Book whose authority we recognize tells us plainly that to the end we shall see in part and, therefore, prophesy in part.

It is to be remembered, however, that this is not all of the truth and that what remains is most encouraging and enheartening. For these things are also facts. The Master promised that the Spirit through the Book should guide us into truth. We know that whatever of truth has been discovered has been found by searching the Book. It is evident that thousands of persons have been made both wise and godly by meditating on the things contained in the Book. It is true, even if we may not know everything in the Book, that we may know much of it and that this will ever be for our own and others’ profit. And, finally, it is manifest that the apprehension of truth is not so much in proportion to one’s knowledge of the Book as it is to one’s obedience to it. In view of prevailing Scriptural misinterpretation and spiritual confusion, it behooves us to walk through life with humble and contrite hearts. We must keep in mind that others besides ourselves have the fullness of the Spirit, and, instead of ourselves, may have the right interpretation of the revelation. And we are never to forget that finality of knowledge and teaching will never be found with us. since we, too, are only men. At the same time, there is every reason to be assured that it is our sacred privilege to come to the Bible as God’s infallible Word; to regard it is the Divine mandate in respect to human life and conduct; to study it as the one revelation which will illuminate the soul and transform the life; and to hold it as the decisive word in all controversy. By doing these things, in spite of all personal infirmity and even in these confused and confusing times, we shall increasingly discover that God’s truth is ever fixed and final and also that he who does the will of God will certainly know of the doctrine.

But to get the benefit of the Book, we need to deal practically with it When one is sick and goes to a medicine chest for a remedy, he does not take the first medicine which chances to come to hand, nor does he take all of the medicines which the cupboard may contain; he selects his remedy according to his need and for the time being shuts himself up to it. The Bible is a sacred medicine chest,’ and it holds in behalf of those spiritually sick, remedies for every disease.

God expects us, however, to show spiritual discernment, not to speak of common sense, in dealing with it. If we wish to know about earth, we do not want to study about heaven; and if we desire to know about heaven, we do not want to study about earth. Again, if we want to understand about spiritual experiences, we ought not to turn to prophecy; and if we want to understand prophecy, we ought not to study about spiritual experiences. We are called upon, first of all, to discover our spiritual need, and then to deal with that portion of the Word which has to do with this. If one is impure, let him consider the purity of Christ and His ability to displace fleshly sin. If one has a temper, let him consider the gentleness of Christ and His power to give love and patience. If one is uncertain about fundamental truth, let him study what the Word has to say about inspiration, the Deity of Christ, the Atonement, the Resurrection and other like subjects. If one is not interested in foreign missions, let him dwell upon the great commission of Christ, the acts of the Holy Spirit variously recorded and the missionary life of Paul. If one is doubtful about eschatology, let Him take up faithfully and fearlessly the teachings which concern future things and found his convictions on the revelation of the Bible rather than upon the comments of lesser books. In other words, we need to deal sanely with the Book in order that the Book may deal sanely with us. To do this is to become, in the best sense, a Bible Christian. And the man who is this is not shaken by every wind which blows and every wave which beats, but stands unmoved and unmovable through every storm. Mr. Moody made one text, “He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever,” the guide of his life; and he became like his text. But he only got to know God’s will by close and prolonged study of God’s Word and this from the standpoint of his personal need.

A last word needs to be spoken. We must be careful not to divorce knowledge and action. It is terribly possible for us to know much and yet to put little into practice. One may approve of clothing and yet go unclothed. One may admire food and yet remain hungry. One may glory in the sun and yet walk in the dark. One may agree with truth and yet abide in falsehood. One may swear by the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, and yet not know, or else forsake, its plainest precepts. Faith only overcomes the world by turning theory into practice, by first knowing and then doing. The heretics of life are not only those who depart from revealed truth, but also those who search it, understand it, praise it—and then neglect or disobey it. At every turn of life, in every crisis of life, for every purpose of life, we need to come to the Word as to God’s final utterance and faith’s full resting place. But having done this, we need, above all else, to set our hearts to keep that which is written therein. There was once on earth a Man Who was God’s great Dogmatist, [Jesus Christ] and He said: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures”; and, be it remembered, this Holy One added: “If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them.”

In “The Monastery,” the White Lady speaks to Glendinning these quaint but most true words:

“Within that awful volume lies
The mystery of mysteries!
Happiest they of human race,
To whom God has granted grace
To read, to fear, to hope, to pray,
To lift the latch and force the way;
And better had they ne’er been born
Who read to doubt or read to scorn!”

Christian Condescension: Reminds Me of the Teachings of My Youth

I believe a visible church to be a congregation of those who make a credible profession of their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, joined by the bond of the covenant #quote Roger Sherman, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution

“I believe a visible church to be a congregation of those who make a credible profession of their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, joined by the bond of the covenant” ~ Roger Sherman, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution

True Story from my life: Never Judge a Book by it’s Cover: In memory of a great man I once knew
 

 “Truth, indeed, came once into the world with her Divine Master, and was a perfect shape, most glorious to look upon; but when he ascended, and his apostles after him were laid asleep then strait arose a wicked race of Deceivers, who, as that story goes of that wicked Typhon with his conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear imitating the careful search which Isis made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down, gathering up every limb still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, Lords and Commons, nor ever shall do till her Master’s second coming. He shall bring together every joint and member, and shall mould them into an immortal feature of loveliness and perfection.” ~ John Milton in his Areopagitica 1644

NOTE: Condescension in this instance is not speaking of a patronizing, rude tone or behavior; it means voluntary assumption of equality with a person regarded as inferior. In other words, showing charity and humility to those who you think are or are in fact inferior to you, just as Jesus washed the feet of those who were inferior to him.

Originally Titled “Christian Condescension” in The Friend, A Religious and Literary Journal from “The Free Thinker” section dated July 25, 1829 [Friends refers to the original Quakers]

The importance of maintaining brotherly love, and that respect which is due to the sentiments of each other, is impressively inculcated in the subsequent remarks of Stephen Crisp, which contain a beautiful description of a religious society, properly organized under the government and direction of the Head of the church [Jesus Christ]. We have always professed, that the sensible guidance of the holy Spirit was essential to the performance of every act, characterized by the solemn title of religious duty. The Great Shepherd putteth forth his own sheep, and goeth before them. They know his voice, and they follow him, and the voice of a stranger they will not follow. How safe to be thus led by him: and to experience this state of safety, we must not only know, but faithfully obey his voice. Can there be any jar or confusion amongst a people thus disciplined and thus obedient? Every one would keep his rank in righteousness, and being subject to him in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, nothing would be lacking to the complete performance of his divine will. Heavenly harmony and unity would naturally subsist amongst these followers of the Prince of Peace. Ephraim would not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim. The strong would cheerfully bear the burdens of the weak, and the younger and inexperienced would treat with due deference the judgment of their elders in the truth. Humility and condescension would be learned in this school, and while we were engaged in doing the Lord’s work, we should be promoting our own advancement in the way of salvation. We cannot but hope, however discouraging the signs of the times may often appear, that the Lord is at work in the hearts of many, to prepare them, like the stones of the temple, to be built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood to offer acceptable sacrifices to him through Jesus Christ. May we all give ourselves up to his divine government, and he will not fail to perfect the work to the praise and glory of his grace, and to the comfort and enlargement of his church. Signed M.

“And all you, dear friends, upon whom the Lord hath laid a care for his honour, and for the prosperity of the truth, and gathered you into the good order of the gospel, to meet together to manage the affairs thereof; take heed that ye have a single eye to the Lord; to do the Lord’s business in the leadings of his spirit, which is but one, and brings all that are given up to be governed by it, to be of one mind and heart, at least, in the general purpose and service of those meetings. Although, through the diversity of exercises, and the several degrees of growth among the brethren, every one may not see or understand alike in every matter, at the first propounding of it; yet this makes no breach of the unity, nor hinders the brotherly kindness, but puts you often upon an exercise and an inward travailing, to feel the pure, peaceable wisdom that is from above, to open among you, and every one’s ear is open to it, in whomsoever it speaks; and thereby a sense of life is given in the meeting, to which all that are of a simple and tender mind, join and agree. But if any among you be contrary minded in the management of some outward affair, relating to the truth, this doth not presently break the unity that ye have in Christ, nor should weaken the brotherly love, so long as he keeps waiting for an understanding from God, to be gathered into the same sense with you, and walks with you according to the law of charity. Such an one ought to be borne with and cherished, and the supplications of your souls will go up to God for him, that God may reveal it to him, if it be his will, that so no difference may be in understanding, so far as is necessary for the good of the church, no more than there is in matters of faith and obedience to God. For, my friends, it is not absolute necessity that every member of the church should have the same measure of understanding in all things; for then where were the duty of the strong bearing with the weak? then where were the brother of low degree? where would be any submitting to them that are set over others in the Lord? which all tend to the preserving unity in the church, notwithstanding the different measures and different growths of the members thereof. For as the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, so are the spirits of all that are kept in a true subjection to the spirit of life in themselves, kept in the same subjection to the sense of life given by the same spirit in the church; and by this means we come to know the one Master, even Christ, and have no room for other masters, in the matter of our obedience to God. And while every one keeps in this true subjection’, the sweet concord is known, and the oil is not only upon Aaron’s head, but it reacheth the skirts of his garment also; and things are kept sweet and savoury, and ye love one another, from the greatest to the least in sincerity, and as the apostle saith without dissimulation. And this love excludes all whisperings of evil things, all backbiting, grudgings and murmurings, and keeps Friends’ minds clear one toward another, waiting for every opportunity to do each other good and to preserve each other’s reputation, and their hearts are comforted at the sight of one another. And in all their affairs, both relating to the church and to the world, they will be watchful over their own spirits, and “keep in the Lord’s power, over that nature and ground in themselves, that would be apt to take an offence, or construe any word or action, to a worse sense than the simplicity thereof, or the intention of the other concerned will allow of.”

 “And whereas it may often fall out, that among a great many, some may have a different apprehension of a matter from the rest of their brethren, especially in outward or temporal things, there ought to .-be a Christian liberty, maintained for such to express their sense, with freedom of mind, or else they will go away burdened; whereas if they speak their minds freely, and a friendly and Christian conference be admitted thereupon, they may be eased, and oftentimes the different apprehension of such a one comes to be wholly removed, and his understanding opened to see as the rest see; for the danger in society doth not lie so much in this, that some few may have a differing apprehension in some things from the general sense, as it doth in this; namely, when such that so differ, do suffer themselves to be led out of the bond of charity, and labour to impose their private sense upon the rest of their brethren, and to be offended and angry if it be not received; this is the seed of sedition and strife that hath grown up in too many to their own hurt.

“And therefore, my dear friends, beware of it, and seek not to drive a matter on in fierceness or in anger, nor to take offence into your minds at any time, because what seems to be clear to you is not presently received; but let all things in the church be propounded with an awful reverence of Him that is the head and life of it, who hath said, ‘where two or three are met in my name, I will be in the midst of them;’ and so he is, and may befelt by all who keep in his spirit.”

NOTE (~CJD): Those who question my religion, I am neither catholic, nor protestant, nor charismatic, Mormon, LDS, Mennonites, Quakers, etc. The group of churches I grew up in you probably, have never heard of. I was raised in a non-denominational group of churches originally called “School of the prophets” by outsiders (not to be confused with the LDS church) The “School of the Prophets” was a designation given by outside ministers who came visiting at the old campground from whence the movement began, if my memory serves me well.. Sometime in the early 1900’s they began to be known simply as “the Body of Christ”.

For those that say forget religion but give me Jesus; Paul said in Philippians 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. 18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

“If men are so wicked with religion,” said Benjamin Franklin to one who was about publishing an argument against the providence of God, “what would they be without it?” The advice Franklin gave in this instance was characteristic of the man. “He that spits against the wind, spits in his own face.”

I was raised to be skeptical of organized religion, I cannot say I was raised to be against it, for the reason exact reason Paul says here, “notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” for that is the only way a lot of people learn about Jesus. Therefore I will not say I’m against it, nor would I say I hate it. I hate what some have done in Jesus’ name, but you have that even outside of organized religion, besides that there are good people in all religions which is why the Bible says in another passage there are God’s people in all “Come out of her my people”

Revelations 18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. 5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

Jesus has people in organized religion, while I condemn the things some do in organized religion, I do not condemn it all as bad. I grew up in, and was taught among people who are into the Pure Religion of Jesus Christ just as;

James said in chapter 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Therefore I will not condemn religion for there are God’s people in all and (paraphrased here) if you offend the least of these, it is better you had a millstone around your neck and cast into the sea.

Hence I am careful, lest I cause a stumbling block to those who might be saved having been taught by those whom (2 Timothy 3:)5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I am also careful not to condemn any one group, for Hebrews 13: says 1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

From studying history, I would say they [the Body of Christ] are most likely the descendents of Quakers from way back, I know many in my family at the founding of the United States and before, were Quakers, I’m sure they must have some connection to those once known as “the Jerks” because of the manifestation of the Spirit of God (Holy Ghost) in their services.

This ministry was built on what we refer to as the “threshing floor” [which refers to ministers having discussions and sometimes arguments on the Truth in the Word, separating the Truth from the interpretation of man or wheat from the chaff] and is solely dedicated to the truth in the Word and the True Gospel of Christ, they have never sought fame, notoriety, nor fortune. They have simply tried to live simple Christian lives and do only those things which are pleasing to God and our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ.

The ministers are not voted for, nor chosen by anyone other than Jesus, no one signs anything to join, if Jesus adds you, there you are. They are most closely associated with Pentecostal, or at least identified as such by those who do not know them. The churches do not have a program other than following the Spirit of God, many times you will hear them say “watch the spirit and where it leads”. Anyone can speak at any time, sing songs, whatever the spirit of God (Holy Ghost) leads any one to do.

It is orderly however, because the people themselves are orderly, that is unless there is an out pouring of the Holy Ghost, then things can get a little exciting. It’s all good and the people are among the best I have ever known in my life.

We are more into restoring the church like it was in the Early Reign church, and living life without sin, like Jesus taught people to do in the first place. And yes, we believe that you can overcome sin, in this life and grow into the perfect knowledge and image of Christ.

For those who do not agree with my views and those I post quotes of, about Christianity, or who think I have never known anything else. I have investigated it, and I came to my conclusions with reason and the help of the Lord: All the quotes, etc., I share, are things that I agree with because I have seen them in my own life.

Like many in my generation, in my teens I turned from the Lord even though I grew up with, and around the most Christ-like people I have ever known in my life, and as a child, I do not believe, I could have had a greater love for the Lord. However, I had no real understanding of the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord, for all the hours I had set listening to ministers, I never really understood, because one, I was just loving Jesus and two, I was completely naive, what proverbs refers to in one instance “a simple one”

I strayed and due to various things in my life, questioned even the very existence of Jesus, it was by his grace and mercy that I finally began to understand, after he removed the scales from my eyes and heart.

I won’t go into how he did this, but let me say, I was the mule that he had to use the 2×4 between the eyes on to get my attention. After using that 2×4 however, he let me see, and showed me the Greatest Love I have ever felt, or known in my life, and since that time (age mid-late 20’s) I have lived for the sole purpose of loving and serving him, and giving others the understanding and wisdom he has allowed me to see, through looking back at my life.

See, I have a great memory and can go through my life, step by step in detail, and see the numerous and various ways he tried to reach out to me, when I failed miserably to see his hand in my life, which is why I have an affinity for the song “He was there all the time”.

Let me say for all the bad I did, he in his grace and mercy, I believe and hope, has made something he can use to help others along life’s way. If not helpful to others, it is because of my failures and not his.

THE HOLY BIBLE IN AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE

PrecedentOriginally Titled “THE BIBLE AS A PERSUASIVE JUDICIAL AUTHORITY” in The Mercantile Adjuster, and the Lawyer and the Credit Man. Published 1900

It is a noteworthy fact in the history of the Anglo~Saxon Jurisprudence and a signiflcant commentary on the life-work of men like lngersoll and Paine that the Bible is cited by our judges oftener and more approvingly than any other publication, excepting those technical “law” books which constitute the ordinary working tools of the legal profession. Adjuster readers, who are curious in such matters, are referred to the following judicial authorities:

Reddin v. Dunn, 2 Col. Apps, 518; Groth v. Kersting, 4 Col. Apps, 595; Ex Parte Schneider, 21 Dist.Col., 433; Times Publishing Company v. Carlisle, 94 Fed. Rep, 762; Giles v. State, 6 Ga., 276; Epps v. State, 19 Ga., 102; Jackson v. Jackson. 32 Ga, 325; Stein v. Hauck, 56 Ind. 65; Dascomb v. Marston, 80 Me., 233; ill. Cent. R. R. Co. v. James (Miss), 16 Sou. Rep, 300; Farrell v. Fire Ins. Co., 60 Mo. Apps, 165; Schoonmaker v. Ref. Prot. Dutch Church, 5 How. Pr. (N. Y.); Thomas v. Thomas, 24 Ore., 251; Miller’s Estate, 150 Penn. St., 562; Rex v. Camb. University, 1 Strange. 557; Bansock Mach. Co. v. Woodrum, 88 Va., 512; Day v. Essex County Bank, 13 Vt., 97.

In very many instances the exact language of the sacred text is quoted and the book. chapter and verse specified, thus indicating that Anglo-Saxon judges are commendably familiar with the Book of books.

For example: Eccl. xxxiii, 19-38; Gen. xxiii; Job xxx. 3; John iii. 8; Luke xi, 46; I Sam. xxi, will be found specified in the above cases.

In the New York case above cited the judge refers to Gen. xxiii as the earliest known instance of a recorded title to land; but that chapter indicates very much more, in the midsummer of 1897 the Commercial Travelers‘ Adjuster quoted that part of the Bible as showing not only a “bargain and sale of land,” but also showing a distinct recognition of “business custom and usage;” because the agreed price, 400 shekels of silver, was to be and was paid in “current money with the merchant.” The simple formalities by which the sons of Heth transferred the field of Ephron to Abraham constituted “livery of seizin;” as much so as the formalities by which, in December, 1803, France transferred Louisiana to the United States, or those by which Spain transferred Santiago to the United States. Livery of seizin, as that term has always been understood in the common law, was the method by which Abraham acquired a parcel of land “wherein he might bury his dead out of his sight;” and it has been a recognized muniment of title ever since. The contract of “bailment,” which is essential to the daily life of the business world, became perfect when “Benjamin was lent to Judah,” the only condition on which Joseph would grant audience to his brethren. Samuel was not only a judge, but he was a “circuit” judge, going yearly to Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeh, judging Israel at each of those places, as well as at Ramah.

An instrument possessing all essential common law requisites of a conveyance in fee simple, an instrument witnessed and scaled before delivery, is described in Jere. xxxil, 9-13. Nehemiah, full of the altruistic spirit, zealous to rebuild the waste places and restore the ancient glories of Jerusalem, quitted his favored position at the Persian court, only to find himself face to face with complaining brethren. who said: “We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.” The concessions exacted from King John, at Runnymede, have come down to us, embodied in what is called Magna Charta. But a still greater charter is to be found in the book of Nehemiah: the sealed covenant of the leaders of Israel, their solemn promise to abide in the faith sworn to their fathers.

An instance of the redemption of “labor” is found in the book of Numbers. Moses paid to Aaron 1365 shekels of the sanctuary, and thereby actually redeemed 273 fighting men. In the book of Ruth we have a. perfect instance of the redemption of “land.” Elimelech and his sons having died without issue, their inheritance was liable to “escheat” to the commonwealth of Israel. But that escheat was prevented and that inheritance redeemed by the intermarriage of Boaz and Ruth. There was a “senior redemptioner,” but he waived his right in favor of Boaz.

The latter, as a junior redemptioner, espoused Ruth and redeemed the inheritance. David’s royal patrimony included the land thus redeemed. It was known as Bethlehem of the Gentiles. Under the operation of Israel’s law of descents, it passed from generation to generation.

Some of the reasons why our judges so often quote Scripture are not far to seek. The magnificent “Arch of Titus,” reared to commemorate Judah’s downfall, the desecration of her altars, the dispersion of her people, the total extinction of her laws and the final and grandest triumph of imperial Rome, is but a crumbling ruin—a favorite haunt of the owl and the bat. For almost twenty centuries the children of Judah have been wanderers on the face of the earth, exiles from their own land, strangers and pilgrims, without a government, a city, a temple or a home. While all other peoples have multiplied (the Anglo-Saxons having increased about sevenfold during the present century) Judah has remained stationary. At the date of the crucifixion the Jews numbered about seven millions, which is about their present numerical strength. But the Mosaic law, which the admirers of Titus so ostentatiously consigned to endless oblivion, remains a living, growing force. Translated into hundreds of languages, printed in thousands of editions, scattered broadcast by hundreds of millions of copies that law has penetrated to the remotest corners of the earth. In this closing year [1900 AD] of the nineteenth century there is no spot on the habitable globe where either female virtue, personal liberty, private property or human life are safe unless that spot has been visited by the Bible and subjected to its teachings. In the Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence of to-day there is very little to be found which cannot be traced to its source in the Mosaic code; and the little thus found is scarcely worth either fighting or praying for. To readers who do their own thinking, who delve beneath the surface, who follow the truth wherever it may lead, we commend the subjoined quotation.

It is borrowed from a charge given almost sixty years ago to a jury in one of the Atlantic States; and it doubtless voices the prevailing sentiment of the Anglo-Saxon bench and bar. Replying to some criticisms of the Mosaic code, made by counsel in the course of argument, the judge said this: “When these giants in human intellect can tell me whence Moses derived his science in legislation without admitting the superlative and divine authority of the ten commandments I shall begin to listen with more reverence to the teachers of human perfectibility. In that short and comprehensive code we find given us a perfect rule of action, covering the whole ground of man’s existence; a rule not only prescribing our duty to God and man in our external behavior, but reaching to the thoughts and feelings of the hearts in every possible condition of life, and in all our relations to our Maker and our fellow-beings. The wisdom of ages, the learning and philosophy of the schools, have never discovered a single defect in that code. Not a virtue which is not there inculcated. Not a vice in its most doubtful and shadowy form which is not there prohibited.

“Whence, then, I ask. did that great Jewish lawgiver derive his spirit of legislation? If that code was written by the finger of the Almighty, let us bow to it with reverence and seek no better rule of life, nor any wiser principle of action. But if they emanated only from the capacious mind and were dictated by the wisdom of Moses. Then Moses was a wiser, a more learned man than any of our new teachers; and I had rather be under his jurisdiction

“l keep his commandments than to learn new rules of civil polity and social intercourse from the most wise and learned of the present day.”

From Alex De Tocqueville who came to America in the 1830’s traveling here extensively. Afterwards he wrote about his experience in volumes called Democracy in America from which he cites a court case in New York.

While I was in America, a witness, who happened to be called at the assizes of the county of Chester (state of New York), declared that he did not believe in the existence of God or in the immortality of the soul. The judge refused to admit his evidence, on the ground that the witness had destroyed beforehand all confidence of the court in what he was about to say. The newspapers related the fact without any further comment. The New York Spectator of August 23rd, 1831, relates the fact in the following terms:

“The court of common pleas of Chester county (New York), a few days since rejected a witness who declared his disbelief in the existence of God. The presiding judge remarked, that he had not before been aware that there was a man living who did not believe in the existence of God; that this belief constituted the sanction of all testimony in a court of justice: and that he knew of no case in a Christian country, where a witness had been permitted to testify without such belief.”

NOTE: Christian Principles are the bedrock of this Republic to separate them from our government you’d have to eliminate the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, our Courts, all past precedent, and our whole form of government.

THE TRANSCENDENT GLORY OF THE REVOLUTION by John Quincy Adams

john-quincy-adamsJohn Quincy Adams received a Congressional diplomatic appointment overseas to the court of Catherine the Great in Russia as secretary to the Ambassador at the age of fourteen. Adams had a long and distinguished political career serving as a foreign ambassador, Secretary of State, U. S. Representative, U. S. Senator and as the nation‘s sixth President.

Letter from John Quincy Adams to John Adams

Washington, 27th April, 1837.

Sir: In compliance with the request contained in your letter of the 27th., I enclose herewith two Autographs of Signers of the Declaration of Independence, and afterwards, successively, second and third Presidents of the United States.

The first is an original letter from John Adams to Arthur Lee, written at Brest, in France, on the 24th of March, 1779. Mr. Adams and Mr. Lee had been joint Commissioners in the Court of France, together with Dr. Benjamin Franklin, and Mr. Lee had a separate commission,’ as Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Spain. After the conclusion of the treaties of Alliance and of Commerce with France, Congress superseded the joint commission, and appointed Dr. Franklin sole Minister Plenipotentiary to France. Mr. Lee retained his commission as Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain. In February, 1779, Mr. Adams left Paris and went to Nantes, and in March to Brest, with a view to embark in the frigate Alliance, then at that port, to return to the United States. The inclosed letter was then written in answer to one received from Mr. Lee, then still remaining at Paris. The destination of the frigate Alliance was afterwards changed, and Mr. Adams, in June, 1779, embarked in the French frigate La Sensible, and returned from L’Orient to the United States. I was during all that time with him—a boy of twelve years of age.

The other autograph is the cover of a letter from Thomas Jefferson, when Secretary of State, to John Adams, then Vice-president of the United States. The whole direction is in his handwriting, and the signature of the name very strongly marks the manner of his usual sign manual.

The highest, the transcendent glory of the American Revolution 
was this—it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles 
of civil government with the precepts of Christianity. If it 
has never been considered in that light, it is because its 
compass has not been perceived. ~ John Quincy Adams 
(see more below)

These are all the autographs of the kind requested in your letter which I have here, and am now able to furnish yon. On my return to my residence in Massachusetts, I may, perhaps, find upon my files of papers some others, and will remember yon. It is as you conjecture; I have received and still frequently receive applications for autographs of persons whose names are distinguished in the history of our Revolution. I have always complied with such requests, so far as I have been able, with great pleasure, considering them as evidences not only of the sentiments cherished by the collectors of such relics towards the founders of our national independence, but of a spirit extending in the community far beyond the collectors themselves.

From the interest taken in those characters, I am encouraged to infer a widely spread attachment to the principles by which they were actuated, and which they maintained with the well redeemed pledge of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. If, at one of the most trying periods of that conflict, in March, 1779, you find Mr. Adams complaining of the dangers which beset the cause, and the difficulties which it had to encounter from the weakness, the selfishness, flattery, vanity, and corruption of the times, yet confiding without the admission of a doubt in the ultimate success of the cause itself,—may we not take it, in these times when the cause has succeeded, and the nation, formed by the labors and sufferings of those days, has enjoyed such a career of prosperity as was never before by Divine Providence allotted to man; may we not take it as an admonition, that the adherence to those principles of our fathers has been among the principal causes of that prosperity? Should we not proceed a step further, and inquire whether that half-century of unexampled prosperity might not have been still more resplendent with glory, but for our own aberrations from those principles, the contemplation of which had fired the soul of the writer of the inclosed letter with visions of an approaching kingdom of the just, to result from the success of that Revolution? In reviewing its history and our own, while we remember with exultation and gratitude the triumphant issue of the cause, and the favors of heaven by which it has been followed, is there not remaining an augury, both retrospective and prospective, upon ourselves? That kingdom of the just, which had floated in the virtuous visions of John Adams, while he was toiling for his country’s independence,—that kingdom of our Father in Heaven, for which His Son taught us to approach Him in daily prayer,—has it yet come; and if not, have our advances towards it been as pure, as virtuous, as self-denying, as were those of our fathers in the days of their trial of adversity? And if we lay these questions in seriousness to our souls, are we not bound to interrogate them still further?—to cross-examine them if they answer with too confident assurance of their own righteousness, and ask them whether of late, and even now, we are not stationary, or more than stationary, moving backwards, from that progress towards the kingdom of the just, which was among the anticipated fruits of our Revolutionary warfare? The highest, the transcendent glory of the American Revolution was this—it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the precepts of Christianity. If it has never been considered in that light, it is because its compass has not been perceived. The letter which I now send you, short as it is, may disclose it. But this investigation opens a field of inquiry too important and too vast for a letter merely inclosing an autograph. I offer it here to your meditations, and if they should lead you to the conclusion that we are degenerating from the lofty energies of our Revolutionary principles, and falling into that retrograde movement which physical nature sometimes presents in the aspects of the planets, hope, with me, that this apparent deviation from the progress of moral and political improvement upon earth, is but an incidental anomaly in the promulgation of that great and universal law which the visions of John Adams beheld in the ancient prophecies of the kingdom of the just.

If I have given you a sermon for an autograph, I pray you to excuse me, and believe me, with great respect to be, your fellow-citizen and servant,

John Quincy Adams.

Christianity is the bedrock of our Republic! You cannot separate Christian Principles and Christianity from the government, of the Representative Republic called the United States of America. To do so, you would have to eliminate the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and our entire form of government. To say that Christianity has no place in our government or public square is entirely preposterous, ridiculous, and goes contrary to every part of our history and founding. ~ CJD

THE MEANING OF THE REVOLUTION and CONTROVERSY OF INDEPENDENCE

John_Witherspoon_by_Peale

 

See also: John Quincy Adams Speech on the Intent of the Declaration of Independence

Note: Politicians, Monarchs, Power Brokers, Despots and Tyrants; Small men with even smaller minds, suffering from overly inflated egos have never liked long, living without utter control over the people, we see this throughout history and we see this happening in America today. These same political power brokers and ruling class elites have worked for 200+ years trying to break that which became America. They have, up until recent generations been held at bay in America by the natural and religious goodness of her people and most of those in power. Who have had an ever watchful eye on those who would encroach upon our freedoms, liberties, free consciences and individual happiness, however over the last few decades the people have been lulled into a false sense of security by those in the ruling class elite. With all the distractions of the modern age, have come the ever over reaching hand of government, or the ruling class and now America unless her people awaken and rebel against the over reaching hand of the oppressors, we will once again be without a place in the world where people are or once were, truly free.

We must pray now, and pray always that God in his mercy will look down upon us and the world and preserve the freedoms he so graciously gave us at the beginning of time, not only for our benefit, but for the benefit of all mankind. May his hand, be the hand that guides us, protects us, strengthens us, and keeps us through the coming storms.

THE MEANING OF THE REVOLUTION. “On the Controversy about Independence.” by John Witherspoon between 1765-1787

EVERY one knows that when the claims of the British Parliament were openly made, and violently enforced, the most precise and determined resolutions were entered into, and published by every colony, every county, and almost every township or smaller district, that they would not submit to them. This was clearly expressed in the greatest part of them, and ought to be understood as the implied sense of them all, not only that they would not soon or easily, but that they would never on any event, submit to them . For my own part, I confess, I would never have signed these resolves at first, nor taken up arms in consequence of them afterward, if I had not been fully convinced, as I am still, that acquiescence in this usurped power would be followed by the total and absolute ruin of the colonies. They would have been no better than tributary states to a kingdom at a great distance from them. They would have been therefore, as has been the case with all states in a similar situation from the beginning of the world, the servants of servants from generation to generation. For this reason I declare it to have been my meaning, and I know it was the meaning of thousands more, that though we earnestly wished for reconciliation with safety to our liberties, yet we did deliberately prefer, not only the horrors of a civil war, not only the danger of anarchy, and the uncertainty of a new settlement, but even extermination itself, to slavery riveted on us and our posterity.

The most peaceable means were first used; but no relaxation could be obtained: one arbitrary and oppressive act followed after another; they destroyed the property of a whole capital—subverted to its very foundation the constitution and government of a whole colony, and granted the soldiers a liberty of murdering in all the colonies. I express it thus, because they were not to be called to account for it where it was committed, which everybody must allow was a temporary, and undoubtedly in ninety-nine cases of an hundred must have issued in a total impunity. There is one circumstance, however, in my opinion, much more curious than all the rest The reader will say, What can this be? It is the following, which I beg may be particularly attended to:—While all this was a doing, the King in his speeches, the Parliament in their acts, and the people of Great Britain in their addresses, never failed to extol their own lenity [kindness, gentleness]. I do not infer from this, that the King, Parliament and people of Great Britain are all barbarians and savages—the inference is unnecessary and unjust; but I infer the misery of the people of America, if they must submit in all cases whatsoever, to the decisions of a body of the sons of Adam, so distant from them, and who have an interest in oppressing them. It has been my opinion from the beginning, that we did not carry our reasoning fully home, when we complained of an arbitrary prince, or of the insolence, cruelty and obstinacy of Lord North, Lord Bute, or Lord Mansfield. What we have to fear, and what we have now to grapple with, is the ignorance, prejudice, partiality and injustice of human nature. Neither King nor ministry, could have done, nor durst have attempted what we have seen, if they had not had the nation on their side. The friends of America in England are few in number, and contemptible in influence; nor must I omit, that even of these few, not one, till very lately, ever reasoned the American cause upon its proper principles, or viewed it in its proper light

Petitions on petitions have been presented to King and Parliament, and an address sent to the people of Great Britain, which have been not merely fruitless, but treated with the highest degree of disdain. The conduct of the British ministry during the whole of this contest, as has been often observed, has been such, as to irritate the whole people of this continent to the highest degree, and unite them together by the firm bond of necessity and common interest In this respect they have served us in the most essential manner. I am firmly persuaded, that had the wisest heads in America met together to contrive what measures the ministry should follow to strengthen the American opposition and defeat their own designs, they could not have fallen upon a plan so effectual, as that which has been steadily pursued. One instance I cannot help mentioning, because it was both of more importance, and less to be expected than any other. When a majority of the New York Assembly, to their eternal infamy, attempted to break the union of the colonies, by refusing to approve the proceedings of the Congress, and applying to Parliament by separate petition—because they presumed to make mention of the principal grievance of taxation, it was treated with ineffable contempt I desire it may be observed, that all those who are called the friends of America in Parliament, pleaded strongly for receiving the New York petition; which plainly showed, that neither the one nor the other understood the state of affairs in America. Had the ministry been prudent, or the opposition successful, we had been ruined; but with what transport did every friend to American liberty hear, that these traitors to the common cause had met with the reception which they deserved.

A PATRIOT’S THANKSGIVING by John Woolman; Quaker and Early Anti-Slavery Spokesman

johnwoolman[The Snare Broken: A Thanksgiving Discourse, occasioned by the Repeal of the Stamp Act, Preached May 23, 1766.]

“WE have never known so quick and general a transition from the depth * * of sorrow to the height of joy, as on this occasion; nor, indeed, so great and universal a flow of either on any other occasion whatever. It is very true, we have heretofore seen times of great adversity. We have known seasons of drought, dearth, and spreading mortal diseases; the pestilence walking in darkness, and the destruction wasting at noonday. We have seen wide devastations made by fire; and amazing tempests, the heavens on flame, the winds and the waves roaring. We have known repeated earthquakes, threatening us with speedy destruction. We have been under great apprehensions by reason of formidable fleets of an enemy on our coasts, menacing fire and sword to all our maritime towns. We have known times when the French and savage armies made terrible havoc on our frontiers, carrying all before them for a while; when we were not without fear that some capital towns in the colonies would fall into their merciless hands. Such times as these we have known; at some of which almost every “face gathered paleness,” and the knees of all but the good and brave waxed feeble. But never have we known a season of such universal consternation and anxiety among people of all ranks and ages, in these colonies, as was occasioned by that parliamentary procedure which threatened us and our posterity with perpetual bondage and slavery. For they, as we generally suppose, are really slaves to all intents and purposes, who are obliged to labor and toil only for the benefit of others; or, which comes to the same thing, the fruit of whose labor and industry may be lawfully taken from them without their consent, and they justly punished if they refuse to surrender it on demand, or apply it to other purposes than those which their masters, of their mere grace and pleasure, see fit to allow. Nor are there many American understandings acute enough to distinguish any material difference between this being done by a single person, under the title of an absolute monarch, and done by a far-distant legislature, consisting of many persons, in which they are not represented; and the members whereof, instead of feeling and sharing equally with them in the burden thus imposed, are eased of their own in proportion to the greatness and weight of it . . .

The repeal, the repeal, has at once, in a good measure, restored things to order, and composed our minds by removing the chief ground of our fears. The course of justice between man and man is no longer obstructed; commerce lifts up her head, adorned with golden tresses, pearls, and precious stones. All things that went on right before are returning gradually to their former course; those that did not we have reason to hope will go on better now; almost every person you meet wears the smiles of contentment and joy; and even our slaves rejoice as though they had received their manumission. Indeed, all the lovers of liberty in Europe, in the world, have reason to rejoice; the cause is, in some measure common to them and us. Blessed revolution! glorious change! How great are our obligations for it to the Supreme Governor of the world!

John Woolman; Born In Northampton, West New Jersey, 1730. Died at York, England, 1772.

 

HOW HE TESTIFIED IN MEETING AGAINST SLAVERY.
[Ths Works of John Woolman. 1774.]

THE monthly-meeting of  Philadelphia having been under a concern on account of some Friends [Quakers]  who, this summer (1758), had bought negro slaves: the said meeting moved it to their quarterly-meeting, to have the minute reconsidered in the yearly-meeting, which was made last on that subject; and the said quarterly-meeting appointed a committee to consider it and report to their next; which committee having met once and adjourned, and I going to Philadelphia to meet a committee of the yearly-meeting, was in town the evening on which the quarterly-meeting’s committee met the second time, and finding an inclination to sit with them, was, with some others, admitted; and Friends had a weighty conference on the subject And, soon after their next quarterly-meeting I heard that the case was coming to our yearly-meeting, which brought a weighty exercise upon me, and under a sense of my own infirmities and the great danger I felt of turning aside from perfect purity, my mind was often drawn to retire alone and put up my prayers to the Lord, that he would be graciously pleased to strengthen me; that, setting aside all views of self-interest and the friendship of this world, I might stand full v resigned to his holy will.

In this yearly-meeting several weighty matters were considered; and, toward the last, that in relation to dealing with persons who purchase slaves. During the several sittings of the said meeting my mind was frequently covered with inward prayer, and I could say with David, “That tears were my meat day and night” The case of slave-keeping lay heavy upon me, nor did I find any engagement to speak directly to any other matter before the meeting. Now, when this case was opened several faithful Friends spake weightily thereto, with which I was comforted; and, feeling a concern to cast in my mite, I said, in substance, as follows:

“In the difficulties attending us in this life nothing is more precious than the mind of truth inwardly manifested, and it is my earnest desire that in this weighty matter we may be so truly humbled as to be favored with a clear understanding of the mind of truth, and follow it; this would be of more advantage to the society than any medium not in the clearness of divine wisdom. The case is difficult to some who have them; but if such set aside all self-interest and come to be weaned from the desire of getting estates, or even from holding them together, when truth requires the contrary, I believe way will open that they will know how to steer through those difficulties.”

Many Friends appeared to be deeply bowed under the weight of the work, and manifested much firmness in their love to the cause of truth and universal righteousness on the earth; and though none did openly justify the practice of slave-keeping in general, yet some appeared concerned lest the meeting should go into such measures as might give uneasiness to many brethren;—alleging that if Friends patiently continued under the exercise the Lord, in time to come, might open a way for the deliverance of these people. And I, finding an engagement to speak, said: “My mind is often led to consider the purity of the Divine Being, and the justice of his judgments; and herein my soul is covered with awfulness; I cannot omit to hint of some cases where people have not been treated with the purity of justice, and the event hath been lamentable. Many slaves on this continent are oppressed, and their cries have reached the ears of the Most High. Such are the purity and certainty of his judgments that he cannot be partial in our favor. In infinite love and goodness he hath opened our understandings, from one time to another, concerning our duty toward this people; and it is not a time for delay. Should we now be sensible of what he requires of us, and through a respect to the private interest of some persons, or through a regard to some friendships which do not stand on an immutable foundation, neglect to do our duty in firmness and constancy, still waiting for some extraordinary means to bring about their deliverance, it may be by terrible things in righteousness God may answer us in this matter.”

Many faithful brethren labored with great firmness, and the love of truth, in a good degree, prevailed. Several Friends who had negroes expressed their desire that a rule might be made to deal with such Friends as offenders who bought slaves in future. To this it was answered, that the root of this evil would never be effectually struck at until a thorough search was made into the circumstances of such Friends who kept negroes, with respect to the righteousness of their motives in keeping them, that impartial justice might be administered throughout Several Friends expressed their desire that a visit might be made to such Friends who kept slaves; and many Friends said that they believed liberty was the negroes’ right; to which, at length, no opposition was made publicly. A minute was made, more full on that subject than any heretofore, and the names of several Friends entered, who were free to join in a visit to such who kept slaves.

 

 

A Plea for the Study of the Bible by Mrs. S. C. Collier 1905

well used Bible“The most important business in this Nation–or any other nation, for that matter-is raising and training children. If those children have the proper environment at home, and educationally, very, very few of them ever turn out wrong. I don’t think we put enough stress on the necessity of implanting in the child’s mind the moral code under which we live.

The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days.

If we don’t have the proper fundamental moral background, we will finally wind up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody except the state.” quote President Harry S. Truman February 15, 1950

GREAT enthusiasm was recently aroused by the masterful address delivered at Oyster Bay by President [Theodore] Roosevelt, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Long Island Bible Society. The oration was printed in the form of a leaflet by the American Bible Society, and already sixty thousand copies have been issued in English, and ten thousand in Spanish, besides editions in Arabic, Japanese, and Tagalog. The printing presses of the world are teeming with volumes of the Word of God, translated and printed in more than three hundred different languages and dialects.

In writing to the Pall Mall Gazette John Ruskin once said: “Let me tell you what the Bible is; it is the grandest group of writings existent in the rational world, translated with beauty and felicity into every language of the Christian world, and the guide since so translated of all the arts and acts of that world which have been noble, fortunate, and happy.”

The literature of the whole Bible is a study upon which scholarly minds are directing ever increasing attention. Every conceivable light is thrown upon it, exploration, collateral history, and deep, penetrating scholarship. It was composed by many authors, covering in the years of its composition one third of human history. Authors wrote its inspired pages, numbering prophets and peasants, kings and fishermen, philosophers and poets, lawgivers and prisoners.

  Everything great begins with God.
 God is a poet; creation is his poem.
 The soul is dead that sheds no light.
 God is the origin of all originals.
 The secret of strength is with the Soul.
 The soul renews its youth when it begins with the 
“Ancient of Days.”
 No forward movement is possible to a man till he stands for God.
 Every enterprise that counts out God begins doubtfully and ends 
disastrously.

Would you take up the study of history? The Bible is the foundation of all history. It is said that the books of Moses were written eleven hundred years before Herodotus the so-called “father of history,” was born. Would you plunge into the labyrinth of jurisprudence? You will learn that the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount are the embodiment of all civil and ecclesiastical law.

The fundamental principles of all good government are taken from the same inspired source, and the only remedy for the social evils which exist in every nation is the practice of the golden rule.

Bible_and_candleEvery department of literature is illustrated in the Holy Scriptures. Seek you biography? “here will you find more interesting characters than those of Abraham, Moses, David, Esther or Paul? Where may you look for more thrilling events than those given in the Old Testament history? Some one has said that “Joshua’s subjugation of Canaan was a great military movement, fraught with more far-reaching consequences than the Norman Conquest. Jerusalem, the city of twenty-seven sieges, has as weird a history as any on the globe.” Where in literature is there found finer style than is exemplified in the matchless lines of David or the unparalleled imagery portrayed by the aged divine on the lonely isle of Patmos? In the Psalms we have Hebrew poetry which sweeps through all the ranges of passion. Ecstatic pulsations of delight are expressed with a masterful touch, and the deepest minor chords of sorrow, of abject humiliation, of heartrending bereavement and soul-stirring emotion are all found in the workmanship of inspired poesy. Carlyle says that the book of Job is “one of the grandest things ever written with a pen.” and adds. “Where can be found a more perfect romance than is found in the book of Ruth, the book which the critical Goethe calls ‘the loveliest specimen of epic poetry we possess’?”

From this wonderful Bible the master minds of all ages have drawn their inspiration. Without it we would never have had the priceless treasures given to literature by men like Milton, Young. Dante, and Bunyan. Half the beauties of Goldsmith, Whittier, Longfellow, and Tennyson would be lost were they robbed of all the Scriptures have done for them. Where is there a grander piece of oratory than that of Paul before Agrippa. when his denunciations caused the king to tremble on his throne?

Should the student enter the realm of art, he will stand spellbound before the masterpieces which have derived their choicest themes from the “Book of books.” Witness Leonardi da Vinci’s “Last Supper” Raphael’s “Transfiguration” and the world-renowned paintings of the Madonna.

The lover of music finds his soul stirred to the very depths as he hears the sublime symphonies of Haydn in “The Creation” and of Handel in “The Messiah.”

Exploded theories and visionary expositions lie all along the pathway of the world’s seekers after truth, but the book which should be the supreme text-book for all mankind has stood the test of thirty centuries, and while, in recent years, stupendous explorations and painstaking excavations have been made, the tabulated stone-the monumental history-rises up all over the ancient world to testify to the everlasting truths, which have withstood the iconoclastic blows of opposition and criticism.

With President Roosevelt, “We plead for a closer and wider and deeper study of the Bible so that our people may be in fact, as well as in theory, ‘doers of the word and not hearers only’.”

Prayer at The Commencement of The New Year

HappyNewYearBlessingO LORD, Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations. From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God, without change or decay; but to us, Thou hast divided our time into weeks and days and months and years. In this way Thou dost admonish us of the progress of our duration here. The heavens continue to this day, for they are Thy ordinances, intended by Thee to admonish us of our progress towards a boundless eternity. Another year has completed its rounds. We look back over the past and recall to our memory the many changes which have occurred, and the numerous mercies which have befallen us. Many are they whom we knew on earth who are now numbered with the dead. Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. Many tender ties have been severed; many useful lives have been terminated. Many unlooked-for events have transpired, and we acknowledge the reception of many unlooked-for and precious blessings.

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever.

Grant, O Lord, that should we be spared through another year, our lives may be spent to Thy praise. But hast Thou otherwise determined, and if this year we must die, prepare us for an exchange of worlds. Whatever our hands find to do may we do it with all our might. We would not forget that the night cometh when no man can work; therefore, grant, O Lord, should this year be our last, it may be the most serious and the most devout we have ever yet passed, and may it be the most diligent of all we have yet spent in the cause of the Redeemer. May it be a good year to our precious souls, and a prosperous year to the Church of the Saviour. May the gospel be preached more widely and more effectually than ever before. May all Thy priests be clothed with righteousness; send down upon them all the healthful spirit of Thy grace. Oh that amidst all Thy Churches the gospel may be better understood, and more faithfully and more successfully preached! Prepare Thy people by Thine own presence amongst them for Thy expected return.

Teach us, O Lord, during this year more diligently to employ and improve our precious time. May we walk circumspectly, redeeming the time, because the days yet to come are few and may be evil. Let not our indolence invite the tempter. May every day as it passes carry with it into eternity the record of some work done for Thee and for our fellow-men; and if we be spared to reach the close of this year, may the retrospect afford us some degree of satisfaction and peace.

May we remember that we are in a world of change and disappointment; prepare us for all the vicissitudes of life. In the day of prosperity may we be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider. Help us in all things to remember that Thou art our Sovereign, and that Thou art ever good and kind, just and true. O God, our help in ages past, be Thou our strength for years to come. We yield ourselves to Thee, and amidst all the uncertainties of the future, we hope in Thy mercy. Graciously accept our confidence, for the sake of Thy dear Son Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Source: The blessing of the household, a series of family prayers by Thomas Talman Gough 1875

ANewyearsBlessing

The Preacher’s Blessing; Or, The Happy New Year.

NewYearsBlessingsThe Preacher’s Blessing;
Or, The Happy New Year.

Numbers vi. 22—26.

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Such, my brethren, was the blessing which Aaron and his successors, the Jewish priests, were to pronounce by the Lord’s appointment over the people of God; and I know no words of pious greeting better suited to this day. New Year’s Day so seldom falls on a Sunday, that, when it does, it would be a pity to let it slip, without wishing you all a happy new year, according to the good old English custom. But, as Jesus Christ once said to his disciples, “Not as the world giveth give I unto you,”—meaning that his gifts are very different from those of the world,— so it becomes the minister of Jesus Christ to say to you on this occasion, “Not as the world wisheth, wish I unto you;” meaning thereby, that the happiness he wishes for you is something very different from what the world commonly esteems such. The world’s notion of happiness, and the gospel notion of happiness, are very different; and therefore the world’s wishes for your happiness, and the preacher’s wishes for your happiness must be very different also. The world, when it wishes a man happiness, means a long life, and strong health, and plenty of money, and a good name, and a thriving family. The preacher, on the other hand, when he wishes you happiness, as I wish you all now, means something very different thereby. What? (you will perhaps ask,) do I not then wish you life and riches? Yes, my dear brethren, I wish you, and pray God to give you these things, and that far more abundantly than the world can wish them for you—even a life without end, and an inheritance more to be desired than gold, a crown eternal in the heavens. These are the wishes of the preacher, these are his prayers in your behalf,—everlasting life and everlasting glory after your departure out of this world; and, during your stay on earth, a sound body, a healthy soul, a name in the book of life, and a household affectionate and dutiful, lovers of God and of his will. Such is the difference between the good wishes of the world and the good wishes of the preacher. The world’s good wishes are like itself, worldly: they look chiefly to the body: they reach not beyond earth, and the things of earth; while the good wishes of the preacher are chiefly for your souls: he looks, and by his office is bound to look, first to the one thing needful: his desires for your welfare are guided by the gospel, and like that would raise you up to heaven. Even with regard to this world, the preacher knows full well that the greatest happiness we can any of us enjoy in it is a peaceful mind, a quiet conscience, the feeling that God is reconciled to us, and loves us, and cares for us, and watches over us, and will so order and arrange whatever may befall us, that all things shall work together for our good.

These, I say, are the very best gifts,—they are the truest good, which any man can have in this life; and they are all contained in the text. Therefore what the Jewish priests were commanded to say to their people at seasons of joy and blessing, the same words do I now utter as a new year’s prayer for the whole of my parishioners and my people. To every one of you, my friends, I say, in the words of Moses: “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” This is my prayer now in your behalf: may each of you, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, may each of you take the words home to your hearts! and may God Almighty hear the words, and bring them all to pass to your great, and endless good!

But let us look at the text a little more in detail; and let us keep in mind, that this solemn blessing was of God’s own appointment, and that therefore we may expect to find mention in it of all those things which he knows to be best for his people. The first words of it are, “The Lord bless thee!” that is, the Lord give thee every good gift, and pour down upon thee in due abundance whatever is wholesome and profitable for thy soul first, and also for thy body. “The Lord keep thee!” that is, the Lord watch over thee for good, and shield thee from every kind of evil. Here then we have already prayed for every thing that is good for you; and have also called on the Almighty (think of that word) to be a guard to you against your enemies of every kind, and to defend you from all sorts of dangers. Is not this enough? Can we wish for any thing more? We perhaps might have thought it enough; but God in his bounty does not: at least he is pleased to shew forth the overflowings of his loving-kindness by heaping up blessing upon blessing. So the text goes on thus: “The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee.” You all know the difference of feel there is between a sunshiny and a cloudy day. The real heat may be the same; nay, the cloudy may be warmer than the sunshiny. In point of fact we know it often is; for we often have bright sunshine in the clear frosty days of winter, and dull clouds in the middle of summer. But though the real heat may be the same on both days,—though the thermometer, as it is called, or the glass which measures heat, may tell us that the cloudy day is the warmer of the two,—yet to our feelings it may be quite the contrary. There is something so enlivening in the sun, that I have often known persons come in from a walk on a bright winter’s day, and speak of it as very pleasant; while the same persons, on a damp cloudy evening in July, would be the first perhaps to shiver, and to wish for a fire. Now the same difference which it makes to a man’s body, whether the sun is shining upon him, the same difference does it make to his soul, whether God’s face is shining on him or no. Let God’s face shine on the soul, it walks in the brightest sunshine: let God veil his face and cloud it over, the soul feels chilled and is discomforted. Thus it is written, “Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.” (Psalm xxx. 7.)

Think not, my brethren, that this is a small blessing. I said, that we often feel the cold on a sunshiny day in winter less than on a cloudy day in summer. Now is not something answering to this often met with in the world? Do we not see many a man there disquieted and ill at ease in the midst of riches and luxuries; while his poor neighbour, who lives in some sorry hovel, may look always cheerful and contented? What is this difference owing to? Not to the health and strength of the poor man: for he may be old, and often a sufferer from cold and wet; and he cannot afford to buy himself the little comforts proper for his years and infirmities. The rich man, on the other hand, may be still young: his disease, if it can be called one, is more of the mind than of the body: he can consult the best physicians: he can travel from place to place in search of pleasure: he is not obliged to deny himself any one earthly thing necessary to his ease and enjoyment. Yet with all this, in spite of his youth and his riches, and his having no outward ailment, and his possessing every comfort and luxury that heart could wish for, he may be always growling and grumbling; while the dweller in the old hovel, with the pinching frost of poverty and age, and sometimes sickness to boot, sharp upon him, may be ever making the best of his condition, and finding out something or other in it to thank God for. This is no mere dream of what might be. Those who mix much with the rich and with the poor, may see instances such as I have been describing, of discontented rich men and contented poor men, in every part of the land. What then, I ask, is this difference owing to? To what cause must we trace the gloomy spirit of the one, who has every worldly good to satisfy him, and the blithe-hearted contentedness of the other, whose lot in the world’s eyes is so hard and wretched? The cause is simply this, that the poor man I have been speaking of—for what I have said is true only of such— has led a Christian life, or at least has turned to God in earnest and repented of his sins betimes; and so God has allowed his face to shine upon him and to cheer him: while his rich neighbour has been led astray by the deceitfulness of riches, and has been so taken up with his pleasures, or with the cares which riches brings with it, that he could not spare time to think about God. He has turned his face away from God: therefore God has turned away his face from him, and left him in clouds and heaviness. O, my brethren, that you might but know and feel the joy and gladness which the light of God’s face can shed sceptre to us, as King Ahasuerus held his out to Esther, when she presented herself before him,— this surely is the highest privilege a son of Adam can enjoy. It is true, God does not in reality sit, like an eastern king, on a visible throne: for he dwells in glory unapproachable, and in light which no eye can pierce. Nor does he really lift up his head, any more than he holds out a golden sceptre. But a child may understand, that, when such things are said of God Almighty, it is only for the purpose of bringing down what is declared concerning him to the level of our poor weak minds. If heavenly things were spoken of after a heavenly manner, how could we creeping earthworms understand them? Therefore it has pleased God in Holy Writ to speak of himself in words and images borrowed from earthly things, that so we may be enabled to form some notions, however dim, and to gain some knowledge, however scanty, of his infinite power and goodness. Thus in some places of Scripture God is called a king, and in others a father. Not that he is like an earthly king, or an earthly father: but we all know what a king is, and what a father is: therefore, in compassion to our ignorance, God suffers himself to be thus spoken of, that we may in some measure understand the duty, and the obedience, and the love, which we owe him, and the protection, and the benefits, and the mercy, which we may hope for from him. So we read too in Scripture of God’s hands, and God’s eyes. Not that God, who is a spirit, either has, or is believed to have, hands and eyes, as we have: but this is said, to teach us that he sees and knows all our most secret actions, just as if he had eyes to see them with, and that he can punish us for our sins, and smite us down, just as if he had a strong right hand. You must not therefore be surprised by the expressions,” The Lord make his face shine upon thee,” and ” lift up his countenance upon thee:” for these things too are said in compassion to our weakness, to make us understand that God’s favour is as cheering to the soul, as sunshine is to the body; and that they who are reconciled to him, and are living in his love, have the same quiet trust and confidence that no real harm can happen to them, as you and I should have, if we knew ourselves to be countenanced and befriended by the king. If we had the king’s countenance, if he had looked favorably upon us, and assured us of his friendship, we should expect to receive some honour or preferment from him; or at least we should feel certain that, so far as he could hinder, he would not suffer any one to harm us. So is it with those who have God’s countenance, but in a far, far higher degree. For the king, great as he is, is only a man. His power is cut short in a thousand ways, and at the very best can only follow us to the grave. When dust to dust is thrown upon our coffins, we are beyond the sway of every earthly prince. But God is the King of kings: his power is bounded by nothing, but his own wisdom and goodness and will: whatever he pleases to do, he can do: above all, in the grave, where all human rule is at an end, his rule and sovereignty are doubled. Here he leaves us in a great degree to our own devices: he governs us by human means: he rules us by viceroys and by stewards: but the moment the soul leaves the body, it passes into his immediate kingdom: it goes to a place where the government is given in charge, not to any earthly prince, but to the only begotten Son, who there reigns and judges in person with a boundless power to punish and to reward. My brethren, the friendship and protection of the King of kings is surely well worth having. May he be pleased, as the Psalmist expresses it, to ” give us everlasting felicity, and to make us glad with the joy of his countenance!” (Psalm xxi. 6.)

Since God however does not really sit like a king upon a throne, nor shew himself to man face to face, how are we to know whether his countenance has been lifted up upon us? The last blessing mentioned in the text will furnish an answer to this question: “The Lord give thee peace.” For peace is the fruit of God’s favour. He who is at peace, and feels himself at peace with God, he who knows himself to be reconciled to his heavenly Father through the sufferings and merits of Jesus Christ, he who knows that he has been admitted and adopted into Christ’s family, and feels that obedient reverence and love toward God, which every true son must feel for the best of fathers,—such a person may be quite sure that God has indeed smiled upon him and lifted up his countenance upon him. “The effect of righteousness,” in both senses of the word,—the effect of justification by faith in the blood of Christ, and of our living thereupon a good and christian life, both which things in Scripture are often termed righteousness,—the effect of this righteousness, the prophet Isaiah says, ” is peace.” Peace then is the offspring of righteousness. If we know we are forgiven for Christ’s sake, we are at peace, because we know that nothing can hurt us. If, out of gratitude and love to our Master and Saviour, we are living in obedience to his holy laws, then too we have every ground and reason to be at peace: for, as the apostle exclaims, “If we are followers of that which is good, who is he that will harm us?” (1 Peter iii. 13.) Here I should conclude, but for one caution most necessary to be given. Some may think, that, because they are at peace, because their conscience does not prick or pain them, therefore all must be well with them. My brethren, it is not every sort of peace that is to be desired, but only that true peace, which is the effect of righteousness. There is a false peace, a peace arising out of recklessness and carelessness and the never thinking about God. Let me warn you against this false peace. Would you say, a man was at peace, who was dropping into a deadly slumber? Would you say that Sampson was at peace, when he lay sleeping in the lap of Delilah? Such, so dangerous, so deadly is,—the peace shall I call it? or rather, the false security of the self-righteous and the wicked.

Rouse yourselves then, I beseech you, from such fatal slumbers, if any of you have hitherto been sinking beneath them. Awake! the flames of the fiery lake are flashing in your eyes, and you see them not, but are sliding sleep-bound toward them. Awake! behold, the face of the Lord does not shine, but frown upon you. Any fear, any woe, any sting of conscience will be a blessing to you, which can but save you from the wrath of a disregarded and offended God. As the old year has fallen into its grave, and the new year has just opened its eyes to the light of this morning’s sun, so let the days of your ungodliness have come to an end, and let this be the first day of a new year of godly fear and hope. This is my prayer for you: this is my new year’s blessing. I cannot wish you peace yet, your false dead peace must be broken up, the crust of hard ice which covers your hearts must be broken up, before you can enjoy anything like true living peace, before the waters can flow gently and calmly, basking in the sunshine of heaven.

My brethren, you can now understand a little better how precious was the blessing which the priest of God among the Jews called down upon the people of God. Let me repeat the words again, as I do from my heart: my brethren, the Lord bless you this year, and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace, now and evermore.

source: Sermons to a country congregation;  by Augustus William Hare 1836

Christmas; Christ’s Nativity: The Manifestation of Christ, or Epiphany.

The Child of Promise and The Nativity of Christ

“The Greek word signifies manifestation, and hath been of old used for Christmas day, when Christ was manifested in the flesh; and for the day wherein the star did appear to manifest Christ to the wise men, as appears by Chrysostom and Epiphanius. For the antiquity of the day, Augustin says, The solemnity of this day, known throughout all the world, what joy doth it bring in!”—” This feast has several appellations amongst the Greek fathers, sometimes it is called, the day of sacred illumination, (Gregory Nazianzen); sometimes the Theophany, the manifestation of God. It often imports Christ’s birth-day; now is the festival of the Theophany, or Christ’s nativity. Yet sometimes they are distinguished, The nativity of Christ and the Theophany, &c. are to be accounted for holidays. And again, The first festival is that of Christ’s birth, the next is that of the Theophany, (Epiphanius). But of all the names most usual, and most frequently applied to it, is this of Epiphany, though under the patriarchate of Alexandria communicated both to the nativity and baptism of Christ.”

I.— The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

The order of divine providence, to a contemplative mind, affords one of the strongest evidences of the over-ruling power of Almighty God, in arranging and completing the purposes of his will for the final benefit of all his creatures. The establishment and administration of nations, and even the successive transactions of every man’s life, sufficiently declare, “this is thy hand, and thou Lord hast done it.” The motive may not always be visible to the limited view of man, but the effect is always visible; or at least, may be deduced from the variety of combinations which every man sees before him. In nothing is this observation more conclusive, than in a comparison of the volume of Scripture with the general history of the human race; and still more, with the history of the human heart.

The manifestation of our blessed Saviour to the world, is the grand key of those unsearchable riches, which the grace of God has given to mankind. He was first manifested by the voice of prophecy, generally, and obscurely, in the early ages; afterwards, more fully revealed in the family of David; and at last, expected and received in the manger at Bethlehem. Could this have been thought possible? Could it ever have been imagined, that he who came specifically into the world to save sinners, and to establish for himself a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom, sooner or later, to comprehend all people, nations, and languages, should be received in a stable amongst the meanest of mankind? But this was an indispensable link in the history of redemption. The more wonderful, because the more unlikely.

Our Lord’s nativity, doubtless, was his first personal manifestation to the Jewish nation, to whom his Gospel was to be first offered. Connected with this was the manifestation of himself, at his baptism by John, by a miraculous appearance, and a miraculous voice. “Then Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and lo! The heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him; and a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. We cannot imagine any exhibition of himself more impressive, illustrious, or sublime. And if we refer on this occasion to the inspired words of the Evangelical Prophet, the scene before us becomes our own. “Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth. I have put my Spirit upon him, he shall show forth judgment to the Gentiles.

It will not be supposed that great events can be accomplished without great  manifestations. There must be something of no common nature to mark the circumstance, and direct the attention. Though some mystery hangs over the disclosure of the wandering star to the wise men of the East, none whatever attaches to the object of their journey. The appearance of a star of an uncommon description was likely to attract the notice of celebrated men belonging to a nation long distinguished for their study of astronomy. How they were made acquainted with the expected, or actual birth of Christ, does not appear. The Chaldeans were a wise and an inquiring people, and might have heard, or read of, the predictions relative to the Messias from the books of Moses, through the information of travelling Jews; or they might have had the circumstance particularly revealed, an opinion I am inclined to adopt, as they were warned by God in a dream to return by a different road. However it was, a star of so particular a description pointing out distinctly to them a line of road leading to the very object of their search, was a pre-disposing cause of their journey; and a miraculous interposition of Divine Providence to reveal the new-born Saviour to a remote region of the Gentile world.

The leading of the star was a moral movement, and every step of the Magi was on sacred ground. They had a Saviour in view, and were little molested with the difficulties of their journey. Christian traveller! dost thou see any resemblance to thyself? The Gospel is thy star, and the heavens above thee are clear. Thou hast no Alps to climb, nor torrents to obstruct thy path; but thou hast dangers to encounter which they never felt, perverse passions and pernicious principles; thou art way-laid by temptations—the world, the flesh, and the devil, are inveterate enemies in that wilderness which thou must pass. But look upward! thou hast a guide and protector as well as them; the star is as visible to thee, as to any of the eastern sages. If the star was emblematic of the Gospel, thou hast the reality of what they only had the figure. The bright and morning star is thine. There was a time in the course of their journey, that the wise men lost sight of the friendly star. They were searching at Jerusalem, and saw it not . Their interview with Herod was of a dangerous nature, and excited both the jealousy and cruelty of the tyrant. Their fears might be proportionate. They departed, it may be, dejected with disappointment from the holy city on their road to Bethlehem; but they had not proceeded far, when the star again appeared, and “they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Thus the man that mourneth for his sin committed against conviction, fallen from prospects of holy hope through the infirmity, and perhaps worse than the infirmity of the flesh, when he again beholds the blessed star of salvation beam upon his soul; when the faith which once led him over floods of ungodliness, and the barren sands of an Arabian desert, begins again to influence his breast, and the spirit of divine love to re-assure his heart, then does he resemble the wise men of the East, rejoicing at the re-appearance of their star, and warmly pursuing their path to the place where the Saviour lies. Happy is the man that recovers from his sin, from the hiding of God’s face, with all the fatal consequences of such a privation; happy in the acquisition of that treasure which the wise men found at Bethlehem; most of all happy, in being taught by the grace of God how to value it! Their own treasures presented to the holy babe, were trivial in comparison with those which he had to bestow. Gold, and frankincense, and myrrh, might be appropriate marks of their own characters and country, and might not be without an allusion to the heavenly Prince, the object of their journey; but the offering of a convert of the Gospel, the offering of one wearied and heavy laden with the burthen of his sin, where was that to be found, but in the very bosom of him whom they came to worship.

Blessed Lord! accept thine own offering; neither the calves and goats of the Jews, nor the lip-labour of the Christian, if I may use a term too degrading for the holiness of his profession, can be a sufficient offering for thee, who art all in all to us. Let us, impressed with this, conviction, approach the humble cottage of the lowly Jesus, and present our own gifts before him; not indeed earthly treasures, to whatever they may allude; not costly presents, such as have too often deceived men of this world; neither with ashes on our heads, nor sackcloth on our persons, but such as the Gospel, pure and unadulterated, rejoices to present, a pure faith, a contrite heart, and an holy conversation.

But our contemplation on the Chaldean manifestation of Christ does not end here. Herod’s cruelty was itself a manifestation of its cause. How shall we reflect on the case of the poor infants who were slaughtered on this sad occasion? Even with that comfort which the Gospel only can bestow. No death is premature which the Almighty has designed; nor any injury inflicted, which the Son of God cannot cure. In infancy, every man may be satisfied with death. If unsinning life may be presented as an offering, through the merits and mediation of him who merited all for us, Oh! let the tear be checked which is shed for a dying babe. Nature may make some resistance, but grace is the healing balm. These poor infants resemble the souls under the altar, in the book of St . John’s revelation, who were “slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. It may be said that they were baptized in blood. True; it was the blood of Christ which taketh away the sin of the world. Youth and age are as nothing in the sight of him, to whom a thousand years are as one day. “Cease, then, from man, whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of?”

II.—The manifestation of Christ by his First Miracle.

To rejoice at every manifestation of the Saviour to the world is a Christian feeling, and must be considered as a manifestation of the increase of our Christian faith. Blessed are the people that are in such a case! and truly blessed is the heart that can sympathize in so holy an affection, that can go on from grace to grace, till he appears before the Lord in Zion.

Our Lord’s manifestations of himself were gradual; like that of the morning, which first irradiates the hills, then penetrates to the depths of the valleys. Each ray brings an accession of light, till the whole atmosphere is sensible of the blessing. If the revelation of natural beauty makes such an impression on the mind, what may we not expect, what, indeed, do we not experience, when the deepest recesses of the soul become the receptacles of spiritual joy, and the “whole of man’s existence is absorbed in the high conception? I speak this under correction; for being compounded of body as well as soul, our warmest aspirations must accord with our relative situation. This union cannot be forgotten, and when rationally, though spiritually established, it must afford the just measure of every religious feeling.

It was a manifestation of our Lord’s person and character, when, at an early period of his life, he was discovered by his mother, sitting in the midst of the learned rabbis in the temple at Jerusalem, hearing them and asking them questions. His proficiency, natural rather than acquired, amazed his hearers, and astonished his mother, who had reason to believe that the Son of Miracle was destined to sustain a character of undefined greatness. The immediate effect of this voluntary appearance is unknown; but, doubtless, it led the way to the disclosure of his future character, and was a link of that chain which bound in one, both the Jewish and the Gentile world: and though Scripture is silent on the subject, it is possible that a Nicodemus, or a Joseph of Arimathea, might be influenced to believe, from a remote circumstance, in the divinity of his character; and, finally, to adopt that acknowledgment of it afterwards, so honourable and valuable to themselves.

The true character of Jesus was, if I may so say, in abeyance with respect to his public history, till he had attained the usual age of public teachers. He then stepped forward with that divine dignity, which accompanied him to the end of his short ministry upon earth.

That which attracts attention in any great character must be something above the ordinary efforts of mankind; something allied, as it were, to a divine original: and though in the common dispensation of God’s Providence, the course of nature is smooth and undisturbed, yet, when his will is to be displayed for purposes higher than man’s understanding, he speaks a language that must be heard, and in accents derived from himself—the clouds pour out water, the air thunders, and his arrows are abroad. Miracle is the signal of God’s peculiar interference at the delivery of the law. The grandeur of the scenery is equal to the importance of the occasion. The Gospel also has its introduction. It is, indeed, a covenant of mercy, and therefore introduced with a milder designation of God’s will. Here miracle is equally conspicuous; but the lenient hand of the Saviour distributes it under a different principle. The law says, the soul that sinneth, it shall die—the Gospel, come unto me and ye shall live. There are also inward as well as outward miracles; miracles of grace as well as miracles of glory. The conversion of a sinner’s heart, and magnifying the glory of God by a miraculous interposition, are conspicuous proofs that God is in us of a truth.

It pleased the Almighty, that the first manifestation of the Saviour in his public capacity, should be made by a miracle. The nature of the miracle was appropriate to the circumstance. The person of our Lord had been miraculously attested at his baptism by John. A few, a very few friends had attached themselves to him at this period, by the tie of an affectionate friendship, founded on the holy character which they believed him to possess. These friends, with relatives of his temporal state, were present with him at a marriage feast, probably of one of his family; unconscious that, at that time, he would give any proof of the divine nature of his character. How unconscious are many of us of the moment, or circumstance, which decides the most important event of our whole lives! This observation must be obvious to every reflecting man. A journey is often commenced which, to many, never ends. We enter an apartment, careless and unconcerned, when the presence of a particular person, or an unexpected offer, gives a turn to every prospect of our hearts. This marriage festival, which brought present enjoyment to some, gave salvation to many more. It gave an impulse, through the grace of God, to the first ministers of the Gospel, and showed them the way, through many long and painful travels, to experience the blessings and happy consequences of an apostolic mission.

The order of divine providence is here as minutely followed, as in any other part of our Lord’s various life. The first manifestation of his glory by his first miracle, was apparently undesigned as to every outward circumstance. It was not made in the temple, the most eminent monument of the glory of God; it did not take place in the holy city, where great kings and great prophets had usually assembled; it did not occur in the mansion of the rich, or in the camp of the warrior, where numerous retainers might have maintained his cause, or fought his battles; but it happened in the humble cottage of a poor man like himself, unable to supply all things necessary on a memorable occasion. His mother’s anxiety was excited: for, when they wanted wine, she said unto him,—” They have no wine.” In that country, wine was not the luxury, but the necessary of life: and when he liberally and miraculously supplied the want, justly might they wonder, and lay the first foundation of that faith on which they were to be built up unto eternal life. “This beginning of miracles,” says the Evangelist, “did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him’.”

Though the conversion of a world was to be the consequence of our Lord’s manifestation, it was necessarily to commence from one point: for in all things there must be an impulse, as well as a final consequence. Here were friends to be convinced, as well as adversaries to be repelled. Both were ready to fill the ranks. Had they been as ready for conviction, or conciliation, the mystery would have been over. But not so, “great is the mystery of godliness.” “A great and effectual door is opened, and there are many adversaries. The harmony, however, of a family of love, as on this occasion, is a picture deserving the contemplation of everyone who would study the intrinsic beauty of Christian society; “after this, Jesus went down to Capernaum, he and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples.”

The object of this miracle was to make Jesus known, as well as to confirm the faith of those who, in a short period, were to become missionaries of the Gospel. Eye-witnesses of such transactions were to be selected for the first preachers. Such was also the selection of witnesses of our Lord’s resurrection.

There is a consistency between this miracle, and the time, place, and persons, when, where, and by whom, it was performed. It had been tauntingly said of Christ, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Whence hath this man all these things*?” The performance of the miracle was an answer to the inquiry. Even his brethren were convinced.

But Jesus not only manifested himself, but his glory. The word glory, in its spiritual sense, is attributed to Christ in its most extensive signification. The glory of the Lord is an expression continually occurring in Scripture; and no man can read it with out an overwhelming apprehension of that Majesty which no man hath seen or can see; an eminence and splendour which surpass human conception, and when we see “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” we have a reflected glory which was communicated to man for the most beneficial purpose of man’s redemption. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto themWhen these expressions of love reach the heart, the glory of the divine union will excite every better feeling, and produce an animation and joy, as if touched with celestial fire.

Lose not a transport so seldom felt, so quickly lost. Be as one of the heavenly host, even now beholding and contemplating the magnificence of the Saviour. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

III.—Christian Missions.

No man can be satisfied of the value of our Christian faith on its true principle, without earnestly endeavouring to extend its advantages both within, and without his power. If salvation be the end of religion, and the knowledge of religion be derived from the word of God, we have here the first step of those many travels to which the zealous missionary is directed. “When thou art converted,” said our Lord to St. Peter, “strengthen thy brethren .” This was not a general, but a particular admonition. But as universal precepts include particular duties, we may imagine that the conversion of brethren was to be propagated from man to man, as all the benefits of society extend to every member of a community.

When we look around us, do we not wish that all we see were Christian? When we observe ordinary habits become public nuisances, and knowing that we reside in a reputed Christian country where salvation has been preached, and even, where, I trust, it has been found; when we reflect upon the relays of sin that pass along our streets, and still more, of what is concealed from our eyes, are we not disgusted at such circumstances, and feel our hearts sink at so appalling a prospect; and finally, under such an impression, is it not our endeavour, by God’s grace, to lessen the iniquity at least by one? He who takes this view of his situation, must necessarily strive to improve it, and to propagate a saving faith within his sphere as an indispensable duty.

But as every duty has its own qualification, so has even the solemn duty of conversion. The mark may be missed by an improper use of the means. A true zeal must be according to knowledge; otherwise we may mar the very blessing it might have been our happiness to procure. This is not the place, however, to draw distinctions. If Christian missions are necessary, a self-evident proposition, they must be supported; but to make them available, they must be derived from that legitimate authority, originally and especially deputed by the voice of inspiration. I mean not to make any observation on the good men who cross sea and land to make a proselyte; but I have often regretted, that more effectual measures had not been adopted for the promotion of this good cause, within the bosom of our own excellent Church.

The propagation of the Gospel, though miraculously rapid at its first institution amongst the civilized nations of the world, was left to find its way in savage countries, and in remote regions of the globe recently or slowly inhabited, by ordinary means, and by the intrinsic value justly attributed to it by pious, zealous, and intrepid neighbours. We will not speak of late or early propagation of the Gospel, because, to the Almighty Ruler of the universe, a thousand years are as one day; and to the happy country, whenever or wherever converted to pure Christianity, we need only reckon by the same measure of time. That which I would wish to inculcate is, that conversion is a duty of all times and seasons as well as in all places, and incumbent on persons of every age and station. The opportunities of life indeed, are different with respect to every event, but if the heart be right, the duty will find its proper place, and God himself will point out the opportunity. If we travel with our eye under this direction, we can follow the Lord’s leading through the most wonderful tracks, and accomplish his purpose by ways nothing less than miraculous.

Within the memory of man, ships of discovery have been sent out into regions not known, and among people the most unlikely to be brought under the cross of Christ. See! the prophecy is fulfilling, ” all nations shall call me blessed.” At various periods in the history of the world, certain impulses seem to prevail in the developement of new facts. The extension of trade, and the astonishing application of the mechanical arts, constitute new powers in the hand of man. These powers arise from new combinations in the reasoning faculties, and produce effects attributable only to the God of reason; the consequence, therefore, is, that the ways of God are carried into effect in a manner derivable only from himself. Thus it is that the trading ship with its Bible on board, is a messenger of heaven; whilst the vessel itself traverses the ocean unconscious of its treasure.

Though all the Apostles were missionaries, St. Paul was the original missionary of the Gentile Church. Not only his preaching and epistles, but the very circumstances of his travels, were appropriate to his mission. What was his shipwreck on the island of Melita, but a part of this design? When they saw the viper on his hand, was it merely considered as an accident by his heathen spectators? This man is a murderer, they said. But when he shook it off, and found no harm—This man is a god. He was a prisoner at Rome,—why? that he might spread the knowledge of the Saviour, and make proselytes in Nero’s prison as well as in Nero’s palace. It is even said, that this great missionary visited Britain. Certain it is, his doctrines came early to this island. In what state did they find our Saxon ancestors ?—oppressed with the cruel rites of Druidism; rude, ignorant, and idolatrous. How great then are the blessings which a mission has brought to us! Let gratitude, founded on the depths of religion, return the obligation, by doing to others what others have done for us; and may we never fail to express that gratitude with faithful hearts to the Giver of all goodness and lover of souls, who hath called us, and our forefathers, out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel.

It is thus that the same benefits are destined to travel round the world. Every man may lend a helping hand. A man may travel by his prayers; he may travel by his bounty; he may be a missionary by his fireside; in humility of mind, and rich in spirit, he may do all this—neither will his labour be in vain in the Lord—he may cast his treasure on the waters, and it will return after many days.

God uses his own means to accomplish his own ends. The Gospel was never thought of when Cook landed at Otaheite. Yet see the change! I can only draw a general conclusion from the circumstance. But there is more in contemplation in the eye of Providence than can be drawn by the most reflecting mind from the events of the most interesting narrative. “I shall see him, but not now, I shall behold him, but not nigh; there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” The star travelled with the wise men from Chaldea, till it became fixed over the revealed Saviour at Jerusalem. The manifestation of Christ is still in progress; nor will it cease till the Gospel of ” the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations’.”

But in casting my eye over the extensive labours of a missionary life, I must not omit other duties, with which we ought to be better acquainted—the mission which presents itself to us at home. And if I add, that this is preparatory to the great and comprehensive plan for the conversion of a world, I trust that I should begin at the right point. Even under the pleasing duties of a parish minister, he cannot but feel discouraged by the carelessness of some, and the obstinate resistance of others, neither of whom he can by any means consider as converts of the Gospel. Here there is ample scope for missionary labours within a narrow compass.

An eminent and eloquent divine, though not of our Church, produces this argument in favour of national establishments of religion.

“An establishment,” he says, “when rightly viewed, has greatly more in it of the character and power of a missionary operation. It may be regarded as an universal home mission. It works aggressively over all the land. That was a prodigious progressive movement which it made at the outset, when it first planted its churches, and chalked out its parishes, and so caused the voice of the Gospel to be heard throughout the whole length and breadth of the territory. And, then, if rightly followed up, we shall discern in its internal workings the same character; for each minister in his own little vineyard is provided with ample scope, and is placed in the best vantage-ground for the high and holy functions of a Christian missionary. It is true that his pulpit is stationary, and there must be some predisposition for Christianity among those families of his people, who are drawn to it by a process of attraction on the Sabbath. But his power is moveable; and by a process of aggression through the week, he can go forth among all the families of his people, even among those who have as little of predisposition for Christianity as exists in the remotest wilds of Paganism. We have not to traverse oceans and continents in order to perform the essential work of a missionary, or to assail an immortal spirit which is not in quest of salvation for itself, with the calls and overtures of Heaven’s high embassy. There is a moral as well as a physical distance which must be overcome; and in the act of doing it, the parochial clergyman may have to face such difficulties, and to force his way through such barriers of dislike, or prejudice, or delicacy, that in the prosecution of his calling, he may, without half a mile of loco-motion, earn the proudest triumphs, and discharge the most arduous functions; and, in short, evince all the sound characteristics of a most deep and devoted missionary. We must not overlook the great Christian good achieved, whether in those rare and transient visitations by which they intersect our land, or in that multitude of fabrics, where they permanently emanate the lessons of the Gospel, and by which they have beautified, with frequent spots of surpassing verdure, the face of our island.”

See also:The Wisdom and Love of God as Shown by His Creation by Noah Webster

Source: Reflections adapted to the holy seasons of the Christian and ecclesiastical year: By John Brewster (1834)

The Child of Promise and The Nativity of Christ

LivingNativityThe Child of Promise.

The word promise, in the Christian acceptation of the expression, is attended with such a pleasing contemplation, that we are prepared to pursue the train of imagination with an alacrity that delights, and a zeal that leads to a conclusion which satisfies the warmest expectation. The land of promise has become proverbial; and we pursue the wanderings in the wilderness till we arrive, with the Israelites, at a country flowing with milk and honey, a country abounding in everything that could please the eye or gratify the senses. That land of promise to the sons of Jacob, was merely an emblem of a spiritual kingdom to the sons of the Gospel. For who is our leader through the wilderness of the world? Who is he that strikes the rock, and bids the living water flow through the Christian camp? One who was indeed the child of promise long before the patriarchal dispensation spread itself abroad in the land of Canaan. By faith, even in the most early days, the elders obtained a good report; and by faith, Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice ‘. This could not have been the case without an original revelation. And if we penetrate a little nearer to the first spring of salvation, we shall witness a grateful promise indeed, that the offspring of our first parents, who brought sin into the world and all our woe, should ultimately bruise the serpents head, and “through death, destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. That this is a great mystery must be acknowledged; but, as a confirmed doctrine of the Gospel, must be believed—believed, not merely as an historic fact, but as the foundation of our Christian dispensation. The purpose doubtless is most beneficial; and though the Almighty has permitted the enemy of our salvation to “walk about seeking whom he may devour’,” we may rest assured that he will be permitted to devour none but those who, virtually or really, renounce the allegiance of our God and Saviour.

If we have evidence of this inestimable promise, disbelief of it becomes tenfold sinful. The distinction of the Apostle is this—” Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith’.” When we perceive, then, a long train of prophecy bearing on this one event, when we have been enabled to see that event accomplished; when we live after the fact, and are made acquainted with the inestimable benefits to be derived from it; that the child of promise has bruised the serpent’s head, by being himself bruised, and put to grief as a substitute for those who had been led astray by the wiles of the seducing serpent; when the blessings of his appearance have been felt in the breasts of the faithful; when the Comforter has come to soothe the orphan hearts of the miserable and heavy-laden—what can we say but that the voice of joy and gladness has cheered the desert, that “the branch of the Lord is beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel!”

To enumerate the prophecies, would here be out of place; but to lay the elect corner-stone on this foundation, as the peculiar grounds of spiritual deliverance, is to establish a principle, which infidelity, with its fullest train of sophistry, is unable to remove, or destroy.

As the original sin of our first parents was the sole cause of the loss of their happy abode, and degraded and obscured the fine faculties with which they were endowed; as that sin has been but too fatally transmitted to their posterity in every succeeding age, and is still predominant in our own; the Almighty, in the depth of his divine mercy and goodness, proposed a deliverer to propitiate for his fallen creatures. The plan of Providence, as declared in the Scriptures of truth, was intimated in every age, obscurely perhaps at first; but sufficiently intelligible to excite hope; afterwards, in language that could not be mistaken; till at length the time came that Christ burst upon the world and completed the general joy.

I speak here collectively—waiving the hardness of the Jew and the resistance of the Gentile:—but anticipating that day of Messiah’s triumph, that one day, if I may so say, when “the multitudes that went before and that followed, cried, saying, Hosannah to the Son of David: blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosannah in the highest!” Is there any one duly impressed with the necessity of a Redeemer, with the true value of a Deliverer—and such a Deliverer !—” the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person,” and one “who, his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree;” is there any man so tame of soul, so destitute even of self-love, as not to hail his appearance with the most joyful acclamations?

This is, indeed, the advent of the child of promise: and to everyone who receives him graciously, he is the child of promise still: as he enters no man’s doors but with this benevolent assurance, this day is salvation come to this house . The promise is completed in the breast of every true believer—the fruit of David’s body now rests on David’s throne. Good old Simeon departed in peace when he had received the infant Jesus in his arms; and Anna, the venerable and aged’ prophetess, spake of him to all those that looked for redemption in Israel.

While our hearts are warm with expectation, let not our bodies faint with apprehension, either under the pressure of sin, sorrow, or affliction. These, indeed, are evils that no man can support without assistance far beyond his own; but he must not forget that help is at hand in the person of the promised child, who came with healing on his wings, with consolation sweet as his pure spirit, with salvation which his merits and his mercies only can communicate. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Rest then here on the omnipotence of this most explicit prophecy; repose with confidence that he who is all this, can bestow all that he possesses; and be assured, that the Prince of Peace is the holy child of promise.

May the benefits of this promise cheer and cherish the heart of every Christian: “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Nativity of Christ.

“When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son.” We cannot have meditated truly on the preparation which was making for the greatest change which had ever taken place on the moral theatre of the world, if we perceive not the intrinsic value of the person to be introduced. Many great men have unexpectedly appeared at various periods, who, from unusual energy of mind or body, have occasioned great civil and political changes in their respective countries and stations. This age has not been without its instances. But, great as these changes may have been, they passed speedily away. Others may succeed; but none are permanent. New changes possibly form new habits: but do they form new men? We must look elsewhere for such a conformation. And such a change we have had, indeed such a change we now have in the blessed object of adoration on this day of Christ’s nativity.

A very partial and even prejudiced observer, is compelled to acknowledge that an important and visible change in the constitution of the world, took place as on this day of Christ’s nativity; the consequences of which will remain to the end of the world. Even the false apostles of later days, the instructors of new religions, wherever they may be found, are proofs of the existence of one pure fountain from whence their polluted streams have flowed; and when those streams shall be cleared from their defilements, which will be accomplished by an ethereal grace, all will flow together into the sanctuary of the Lord.

“When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son.” A short selection of passages from the more remote and obscure prophecies to the recent and explicit, will at once illustrate the point of time alluded to by the apostle. “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head’.”—” In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed—” Of the fruit of thy body (David’s) will I set upon thy throne.”— “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emanuel .”—” Behold! thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. ” He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father David‘.”—” From henceforth,” said Mary the virgin, “shall all generations call me blessed‘.”

This day of our Lord’s nativity presents to us a yearly representation of this fulness of time. It reminds us of another day distinguished in the annals of sacred history, when the children of Israel were delivered from the captivity of Egypt; and may also call attention to ourselves when delivered from the bondage of sin: ” this day shall be unto you for a memorial, and you shall keep it a feast unto the Lord throughout your generations ; you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever.” Previous to this day, the Messiah appeared only in figure, in shadow, and prophecy, but on this day of his revelation to Israel, and through Israel to the world at large, the shadow fled, and prophecy was accomplished. Then, indeed, time was at the full. God sent forth his Son: he went forth from himself, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. The passage illustrates, the whole scheme of man’s redemption through Christ, from the pressure of the law of Moses, from the pains and penalties of sin and death, from natural depravity, to an assumption, by the Saviour, into the inestimable blessing of adoption: “and because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father!” The connexion now is as full as the time—” Christ taking our flesh, we rejoicing in his Spirit—he, by us, partaking of our nature—we, by him, partaking of the divine nature, both sealing our duty to him”!

A contemplation of the sacred books, revealing and recording every circumstance relative to him who is the light of the world, is wonderful in every view. They are satisfactory evidences of what God has done for the soul of man; clear as a plan of salvation, consoling to penitent sinners, encouraging to those who are the happy recipients of so inestimable a blessing. When these consequences are fairly understood and appreciated, the prophetic notice of our Lord’s coming, the supernatural circumstances of his birth, the vision of angels to the shepherds, the harmony of the celestial hymn, the painful journey of the wise men of Persia, the presentation of a valuable symbolic offering to an obscure infant in the manger of an obscure inn; and at a later period of the infant’s life, the extraordinary appearance and preaching of his avowed forerunner, St. John; and more, the splendid and miraculous revelation of the Holy Spirit at his baptism;—will be thought far from unseasonable preludes to our hymns of praise and thanksgivings to him, who thus brought tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.

Had the Jews been sensible of such a visitor, as they ought to have been from a knowledge of their own Scriptures; were we sensible of such a visitor, with both the Jewish Scriptures and our own before our eyes, how very different would have been their conduct, and how very different should be our own on the anniversary of this day of our Lord’s nativity! It would not merely be a periodical blessing, but every day would cause a spiritual rejoicing for a new state of existence. “This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will be glad and rejoice in it.”

Considered in this light, we have a fulness of subject, suitable to the fulness of time: a subject which seems to burst beyond common bounds, and offers such a plenitude of thought, as ought, indeed, to fill our hearts with gladness, and our tongues with praise. I do not, however, call upon myself or others to desire an excitement beyond our natural powers. An enthusiastic elevation of mind is no proof of a sound and holy faith. The calmness of our belief is the criterion of our wisdom. “The wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. The subject indeed is high; and requires the highest attainment of spiritual understanding to reflect upon it with edification and improvement: but God has given us, on such occasions, not “the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” If our understanding be charged with righteousness, our Christian path will be as smooth, as if softened by the dew of the morning.

May my heart be prepared by divine grace for so holy a meditation! May it secure to me the calmness of piety; and then may I be allowed to open my eyes and exclaim with the servant of the prophet on the rapture of his master, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!”

The day of Christ’s nativity must not pass away like common days; neither must it be distinguished by that thoughtless and licentious hilarity, which custom has shed around it. The cheerfulness of true religion requires nothing austere or morose, much less anything brutish or intemperate, to correct it. The domestic virtues are Christian virtues; they are graces emanating from the very spirit of Christianity, and diffusing such a love among family-society, as the angels of heaven may look upon with complacency and satisfaction. Blessed is that season which is made holy by the pleasing and pious intercourse of prayer and praise! Blessed are those Christian friends who meet together to praise God and be thankful: thankful, not only for the comforts they enjoy as members of a Christian family, but as part of an holy brotherhood, of “the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven’;” as one of those that “have obtained a good report through faith, and have received the promise”.

The meditation is awful and interesting to which we are directed on this blessed day of our Lord’s nativity—it rests principally on the great doctrine of the day, salvation by Christ alone; “neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” No obscurity attends the doctrine; neither can salvation be explained away by any moral argument. The original revelation of our Lord’s name and character to his reputed father, -cannot be misunderstood; “Mary thy wife shall bring forth a son, conceived in her by the Holy Ghost, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sin.” “The God of our fathers,” says St Peter, “raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, and hanged on a tree: him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins’.” How was this accomplished? Hallowed be the exposition to every feeling member of the Church of Christ!” I delivered unto you, first of all,” says St. Paul, “that which I also received; how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures ‘.” And the beloved apostle expressly declares, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

To bring this home to the reflecting heart. We are, or ought to be well satisfied of the insufficiency of human merit; every man bears the evidence within his own breast; and I dare not think that any man can rest on his own merit. No man certainly, who does not greatly deceive himself. If he cannot rest on himself, he must look for help elsewhere. But where, in human life, can he find it? Poor human nature sinks beneath his grasp. No man may redeem his brother. But in the discovery made on this day of God, we have as much as God can send; as much as man can desire. “God sent forth his Son”—his great estimation of the person sent, is implied in the expression. Human feelings are those only by which we can arrive at any adequate conception of things divine. The name of Son needs no interpretation in a parent’s breast. And if we can imagine, even in a low degree, the infinite pureness of the Almighty’s love, then may we attempt to calculate the love of God, which passes all understanding. The Son, too, implies the human nature of Christ without which the object of his appearance would have been in vain. The world in which he appeared, and the character of that world, are consonant with the great purpose of his coming. “In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”—” He sent his Son to be the propitiation [or, propitiatory sacrifice] for our sins ‘.” That is, to free us from all the evil consequences of sin, and endow us with all possible good; adopt us as beloved children, and invest us with an heavenly inheritance.”

Here then is disclosed, not only the fulness of time referred to in the birth of Christ, but the fulness of blessings attached to it. In consequence of the great event of this day, the circumstances of the world are changed. We were under the law, and subject to its penalties: we are under the Gospel, and expectants of its promises. Under the sentence of the law our very lives were jeopardied; under the benevolence of redemption we are not only rescued, but accepted. Our redemption is not restricted by cruel conditions, or by narrow bounds; the Son, thus given and received by faith in the pardoning mercy of God, through him, is all-sufficient; he is a common Saviour, and his gratuity “a common salvation.”In him shall all nations be blessed;” but not as all nations, or all sinners, but as redeemed, purchased by the blood of the Redeemer. It was a matter of purchase and delivery—” He gave his life a ransom for many,” for the many, the world. To make this redemption effectual it must be accepted in the beloved, the beloved Son of God, for “he that made Christ the Son of man, regenerates men to be the sons of God.”

As practical feeling is the proper result of sound faith, it becomes us to let no moment of reflection pass by without improvement in the contemplation of Divine truth. The fulness of time has brought before us a complete view of man’s salvation, let us inquire, whether our hearts have freely responded to such happy tidings? If they have, the convinced Christian will have great cause for rejoicing. No partial view of his religion will have produced a partial judgment of his condition, not relying on any personal call, he will still consider himself personally interested in an assurance of hope, resting on the firm basis of an assurance of faith.

As we rise by degrees through almost every situation of human life, so by degrees we rise from the humbling necessities of mortality to the triumphant glories of a better world. The progress, which at first is pleasant, at last is delightful. How exquisite the gradations of a Christian mind advancing daily in spiritual strength, daily rising from one eminence to another, and experiencing those sweet consolations, the happy consequences of an increase in religious knowledge! The Christian is springing upwards. At the first step he finds the fulness of comfort, that enviable state of mind, which may be felt, but cannot be described. After a hard day of conflict and of sorrow, he finds himself resting at ease on the bosom of a friend. But why represent in figure, what is best known in substance? The Spirit of God, which has guarded his footsteps in every movement of his variegated life, sheds a benignant glow around his heart, which thrills in every vein. Peace I leave with you—is the glad voice he hears—My peace I give unto you. From hence he springs forward again, in the fulness of duty, to perfect his day of holiness. This is the second step of advance in his growth of Christian grace. Here he calls to mind the wonderful arrangement of the Almighty, in the accomplishment of this day of salvation. The fulness of God’s mercy is manifested in the inscrutable, but sufficient dispensation of his Son. If we have received of his bounty, let us return of our fulness. But fulness of comfort, and even fulness of duty, however valuable in their separate stations, will both be incomplete, without that fulness of thanksgiving and joy, which is the third gradation of piety on this day of the Lord.

If this be a time of seasonable joyfulness, let it be on the best principles of spiritual enjoyment; connecting the passing scenes of a transitory life with the reversion of a goodly heritage, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

The meditating Christian will suffer no reflection to pass by him without improvement. Is this the day of Christ’s nativity? So is every day that rises upon the Christian’s soul. So is every day that finds him on his knees before this shrine. Such convictions are ever new—they spring daily like the tender grass, fragrant as the field which the Lord hath blessed.

Help us then, blessed Lord, so to live through this day of God, that we may indeed rejoice when the day-spring from on high shall visit us!

A double nativity; of our own, and of Christ.

“Unto Us a child is born, unto us a son is given”— the prophet Isaiah was as confident that the child whose high character he describes, (Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace,) would appear in a due season, as if he then stood before his presence. The angels, in a vision, announce the coming of this child on the very day of his nativity, to a company of unpretending shepherds, with an appropriation which cannot be mistaken. The prophet said, “Unto us a child is born;” the angel, “unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord’.” The connection is extraordinary and important. The language of the angel is the interpreter of the voice of prophecy. He not only points out the child, but the end and design of that child’s appearance in the world. It is specifically declared that the nativity of Christ was intended to fulfill a peculiar purpose, and that the beneficial influence of it should extend to the remotest regions, and the most distant people. Unto you, he says, is born a Saviour; but lest the shepherds should suppose the revelation to be confined to themselves, he dispels their personal fears with this reviving and general promise:—,” I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people;” that is, according to the best Scripture interpretation, to all who shall beneficially to themselves lay hold on the good tidings o salvation through the means of faith.

The history of Christianity takes this direction from the first:—” Children of the stock of Abraham,” said St. Paul, “and whosoever among you feareth God, unto you is the word of this salvation sent.  But soon does he make the fatal distinction, “Seeing ye put the word of God from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, Lo! we turn to the Gentiles.” The Gentiles happily received the rejected doctrine of the cross: but “now” says the same Apostle to the Ephesians, “in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

From these considerations, it is clear that this salvation is personal, and therefore interesting: for the Lord Christ came not for his own sake into this miserable world, but that he might succour and save us. Let us then diligently endeavour to believe the angel, that we may enjoy the benefit of his coming. This is the language of Scripture in every part: believe and ye shall be saved; so believe as to make the nativity of Christ your own; and so live as to show that your whole conversation flows from your pure and lively faith: for the Scripture says, “The just shall live by faith.” This is the very ground of Christianity in its purest interpretation; and the end of all Christian knowledge is this.

The object of our present contemplation is that of a double nativity, that of our own, and of Christ; and that, in connection with each other.

The birth of our Lord, however it was received on earth, was the cause of great rejoicing in heaven. This joy is so great in this celestial region, that it cannot be contained, but bursts forth in splendour and in glory, that it may be communicated to the world. In contemplating this revelation we are ready to say, “Had I been one of the shepherds, with what devotion would I have received this holy child! With how much diligence would I have served him! But this presumption is soon checked by the self inquiry, do I duly serve him now? Is my devotion as ardent, and my love as pure, as I imagine it would have been then ?”—We see Christ now walking before us in the person of the poor and miserable. Do we now relieve him? We see his glory spreading over all the world, and the Gospel of his kingdom taking possession of the heart, and yet we are neither affected by the magnificence, nor the interest of the sight; neither do we turn our eyes on our own wants, and on that spiritual part which we are called upon to bear in it.:

Again, we see our Lord in the manger, and in as lowly a mansion as ever received any of the human race. Had I been there this should not have been the case. But, alas! like the three disciples on the mount of transfiguration, we wist not what we say. Let us turn aside from all such vain inquiries, and busy ourselves in those only which will make us wise unto salvation.

Our Lord in his cradle was like a treasure hidden in the earth. Search for it, and find it; open it, and possess it; and then it becomes profitable and precious. Such is this nativity. Use it as the pleasure of the Lord designed it; reflect upon it with all its consequences; otherwise it will be no comfort and advantage—it will be no nativity to us. For if we know no more than the bare history of our Saviour’s birth, and the circumstances which occurred at it—that he was born poor and needy—that he was visited in a stable as a forlorn and helpless infant, and lay reposing in a manger, we might have sympathized with him as a fellow-sufferer, but we could not have profited from this more than from any other history. If we looked upon him as no more than one of ourselves, one born in the ordinary course of human life, and returning again to the dust like other men, what rejoicing could we have had on this day of his nativity? No—look further :—” God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” And if he was so at his crucifixion, he was not less so on the day of his nativity. Look at the host of heaven announcing the event; hear the song of glad tidings harmoniously descending from the clouds; and, then, if the Gospel be true, not all the arguments of the most insidious skeptic can wrest this overwhelming truth from the record of the Almighty. How, then, it becomes us to inquire, should we use the day of his nativity, whom we acknowledge as the Saviour, the Messiah, “Him that should come, and that we look not for another?” even as I have already said, that if we believe that he was born for us, according to the declaration of the angel that his nativity is ours.

To complete our meditation, we must bring it home to ourselves, by reflecting deeply on the nature of our own nativity. And here we must refer to the same records which have so clearly delineated the purity of our Saviour’s birth, and his celestial origin, before we can duly appreciate our own. Adam’s sin, and man’s degeneracy are too well known to make us strangers to the depravity of our nature. Death was the mark of punishment assigned to the commission of the original sin of man: and the continuance of death in the world, affords decisive evidence both of the sin and the recompense. But though temporal death is unavoidable by the sons of men, as partakers of the fallen nature of their parents, a restoration to spiritual life is graciously permitted to all those who are capable of receiving such a blessing, by means of the merits and mediation of him, who, mercifully and specifically appeared as the promised Saviour of the world. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

The best men under the first covenant, as well as under the second, have confessed, with heavy hearts, the original corruption of the nature of man. “In sin has my mother conceived me,” is a weight about the neck of every man born into the world; and the longer he lives, the stronger is the evidence. Our nativity, therefore, has but a melancholy presage: and “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us ‘;” the Gospel truth, as well as the truth of our declaration. This will admit of self-evident proof. It is not because a man may say, “I am possessed of rational faculties, and an understanding heart, therefore I will not sin.” Experience is against him. God “destroys the wisdom of the wise, and brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent,” that no flesh should glory in his presence. Men of all learning and of all knowledge have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, as well as those who have had few opportunities of adding to their original stock of attainments. Here then we are all equal, and all bowing before the equitable throne of God. And here should we all have perished, if the wisdom of God had not been wiser than men, and found out for us a nativity not our own. “Christ was made sin, or a sin-offering for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. To deliver us from the effects of our natural nativity, God sent another nativity, which behoves us to be without spot or blemish, that it might make this unclean and sinful nativity pure.

This is that holy nativity, both of our own and of Christ, which we are called upon to celebrate on the anniversary of our Saviour’s birth. Happy is the man that can celebrate his spiritual birth on the same occasion. “If ye shall keep these,” says Luther, “then both the holy nativity of Christ shall be a help and comfort unto you, and also, ye shall be spiritual children of his mother, as Christ Jesus is her child according to the flesh.” In this discussion we have faith in its purest light, and we have love, the effects of faith, in its most brilliant colours.

This is then that most excellent provision which the ‘Lord hath provided for us; but of which none can experience the benefit, but those who accept it through faith. No man can easily believe this, but he that feeleth what his own nativity is; for he that feeleth not his own misery, can have no feeling for the nativity of Christ. If we are truly sensible of the original taint of sin, of our actual guilt and incessant propensity to evil, we shall then see the necessity of a restoration through the grace of God to that image of the Almighty in which man was first created.

This is an enviable situation for any Christian to attain: and the reverse of it, as we value the safety of our souls, carefully to be avoided. For if we feel not the weight of our sins, neither as yet feel the bitterness of them, the history of our Lord’s birth slides coldly to the heart—we may hear it, indeed, but it makes no impression; it never enters into our understanding, nor excites that warm feeling of danger which may rouse our attention, and, by divine grace, rescue us from a precipice, only one degree remote from everlasting ruin. If we really did believe that this nativity was for our advantage, we should fear neither sin nor death; and, therefore, to make this festival effectual to all its holy purposes, a faithful Christian must doubt nothing, that this nativity is as well his, as it is the Lord Christ’s. Let the heart have some confidence in this persuasion, otherwise it will be in a most evil case. This was signified by the angel, when he said, unto you he is born; as if he had said, whatever he is, or possesses to bestow, it is yours. He is your Saviour, and is able to deliver you from the wrath to come, and is truly your ” wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.

When we have meditated on a subject suitable, not to one day, but to every day of every Christian’s life, piously and religiously, are we not well assured that the angel has, indeed, brought us tidings of great joy; as it cannot but be that our hearts must be glad, when we enjoy this Saviour as our own?

When we are bent down with misery and sin, when we are oppressed with calamity and distress, and there remains no comfort or assistance within us, or without us, in a world of trouble; when the heavy heart cannot lift up itself above its burden, the situation is indeed deplorable and sad:—” I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me; refuge failed me, no man cared for my soul’:”—but when we conceive a trust which rises above the world, and are satisfied that Christ’s nativity is ours, and that the benefit of his coming reaches to us, under every circumstance of life or death, then the Sun of Righteousness rises upon the soul, and all creation is gladdened by its beams:—” This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it’!”

See also:The Wisdom and Love of God as Shown by His Creation by Noah Webster

Source: Reflections adapted to the holy seasons of the Christian and ecclesiastical year: By John Brewster (1834)

SIGNS OF THE TIMES by Jedidiah Morse: Pastor of the Congregational Church

“SIGNS OF THE TIMES” A Sermon by Jedidiah Morse: Pastor of the Congregational Church in Charlestown.

DANIEL xii. 4, 10.

BUT THOU, OH DANIEL, SHUT UP THE WORDS AND SEAL THE
BOOK, EVEN TO THE TIME OF THE END; MANY SHALL RUN
TO AND FRO, AND KNOWLEDGE SHALL BE INCREASED.

MANY SHALL BE PURIFIED AND MADE WHITE, AND TRIED;
BUT THE WICKED SHALL DO WICKEDLY; AND NONE OF THE
WICKED SHALL UNDERSTAND; BUT THE WISE SHALL UNDERSTAND.

Jedidiah Morse 1761-1826

Jedidiah Morse 1761-1826

OUR blessed Lord once addressed the Pharisees and Sadducees, in a way of keen reproof for their criminal inattention to events which were manifestly fulfilling most important prophecies, in the following language; “When it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather; for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to-day; for the sky is red and lowering. Oh ye hypocrites, ye can – discern the face of the sky, but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” Daniel’s seventy weeks;[Dan.ix.24] were then nearly completed. The sceptre was departing from Judah; Elias had already come in the person of John Baptist, as the forerunner of the Messiah; the numerous prophecies relating to his character, doctrine, and miracles, were visibly fulfilling, and a general expectation of his coming prevailed over the world. Had these Pharisees and Sadducees taken due pains to acquaint themselves with these prophecies, and with the singular events, which were accomplishing them; had they been as attentive to these “signs of the times,” as to the signs of the weather, they might easily have perceived that these were the times of their expected Messiah, and that their nation was shortly to be given up to awful punishments for rejecting him.

“That, which hath been, is now; and that, which is to be, hath already been.”[Eccles. iii:15] “Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.”[Ch.i:10] Are there not many of the present generation of men, who resemble these ancient Pharisees and Sadducees? They can “discern the face of the sky;” they are wise to prognosticate the course of events with respect to political and commercial affairs; but they ”discern not the signs of the times;” they are criminally ignorant of the Scripture prophecies, which relate to the present period, and inattentive to events, which are remarkably fulfilling them. But this, however, should not surprise us; since the prophet has given us warning, that at this period “the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand.”

The verses of the text may with propriety be read in connection. The intervening passage is a digression, and may be included in a parenthesis. The import of the verses thus connected, is this; that “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased;” and that the effect of this increase of knowledge, in conjunction with other causes, will be, that “many shall be purified, and made white, and tried.”

The person, who addressed Daniel in this prophecy, and directed him to “shut up the words, and seal the book to the time of the end,” was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. In the tenth chapter of this prophecy, [v. 5-6] a more particular account of this personage is given. “Then I lifted up mine eyes and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz; his body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in color to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.” Any one, who will take the pains to compare this description with that, which St. John, in the Revelation i:13-20, gives of Jesus Christ, must be convinced, that the personage here described, who is the same, that addresses the prophet in the text, can be no other, than the Son of God. This might be farther confirmed by a comparison of Daniel xii. 5, 6, 7. with Rev. x. 2. 6. in both which places the personage, alluded to and described in the text, is ” represented, as setting his right foot on the sea, and his left upon the land, as Sovereign Lord of both elements.”

The prophecy under consideration, which was dictated by “him that is true,”[Rev. iii.7] describes events, which were to happen in the last times, or “in the time of the end,” and must of course remain obscure, till the events predicted shall be about to happen, or be actually passing in view of the then existing generation.

The prophecy in the text is then yet to be fulfilled; or, perhaps to speak more correctly, is fulfilling by the events of the present times. This appears from the prophecies connected with the text. The victories of Mahomet, or the rise and establishment of his dominion, and also the destruction of his power, seem plainly foretold and described in the five last verses of the chapter preceding the text.[Dan.xi.40-end “And at the time of the end,” i.e. of the prosperity of the Roman empire, “the king of the south,” meaning Mahomet, “shall push at him: and the king of the north,” the Turks from Scythia, “shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots and with horsemen, and with many ships, and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow, and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape out of his hands, even Edom and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.” It is remarkable, that while the Turks from the north overran Syria, Palestine, and the other neighboring countries, Edom, Moab, and Ammon escaped, and have never been conquered by any nation; and their inhabitants, the Arabs, to this day, receive an annual tribute from the Ottoman emperors, for the safe passage of their pilgrims and caravans to Mecca. “He,” meaning the Turkish emperors, continues the prophet, “shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt, and the Libyans and Ethiopians shall be at his steps.” These prophecies have all been literally fulfilled. Egypt, with her immense treasures, Lybia and Ethiopia, embracing the northern parts of Africa, fell under the dominion of the Turks, and so remain to this day.

Events, which are yet future, are foretold in the two following verses; “But tidings out of the east, and out of the north, shall trouble him; therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy and utterly to take away many. And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palaces between the seas in the glorious holy mountain;[Temple Mount] yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.” Mr. Mede supposes, that these “tidings from the east, and the north, which shall trouble the Turkish emperor, may be the return of Judah and Israel from the countries east and north of the holy land, as in these countries the greater numbers were dispersed, and remain to this day.” The return of the Jews to their own land, is expressly predicted by the prophet Ezekiel; [Chap, xxxix. 5 last verses] and to this event, and to the assistance, which shall be given them by the Christian nations east and north of the holy land, this prophecy may refer. Tidings of such assistance from these nations would doubtless trouble the Turkish government, who are in possession of the country, which is to be restored to the Jews.

But other writers on prophecy give the passage a different interpretation. Persia lies to the east, and Russia to the north, of the Turkish dominions. For centuries past, it is well known, that the Turkish emperors have been apprehensive of a junction of these two formidable powers, and have exerted all their policy to prevent it. It is known also, that there is a tradition current among the common people in Turkey, that their empire will one day be overthrown by the Russians; also that a mutual affection and confidence subsist between the Christians of the Greek church, vast numbers of whom are inhabitants of the Turkish empire, and the same denomination in Russia, where this is the established religion; and that the former consider the latter, as those “whom ancient prophecies mention, as designed by God for their avengers and deliverers in after ages.” [See Sir Paul Rycaut’s Account of the Greek Church, c, iii. p. 83. Published 1678] So the Greek church interprets the prophecy under consideration.

On the whole, it appears most probable from the language of this prophecy, that the Persians on the east and the Russians on the north will, at a period not far distant, unite in one grand effort against the Turkish empire to overthrow it; that the Turks will establish their camp and collect all their strength “between the seas of the glorious holy mountain,” i.e. in the land of Canaan, between the Mediterranean and Dead Seas, whence they will go forth with great fury against their combined foes, “to destroy, and utterly to make away many.” “Yet he,” i.e. the Turkish power, “shall come to his end, and none shall help him.” This will complete the ruin of the Mahometan power, or the eastern antichrist. The overthrow of the western antichrist, which is also predicted in this chapter, will happen about the same time.

“And at that time,” says the prophet in the chapter, which contains our text; that is, at the time when the great events of which we have spoken, shall be passing; when the antichrists of the east and the west shall be falling (for they are to fall, agreeably to the prophecy, nearly at the same time) by the means, which God hath ordained for that purpose; “at that time, shall Michael stand up, the great Prince, which standeth for the children of thy people, and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was, since there was a nation, even to that same time.” “And at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book;” that is, Israel, God’s chosen heritage, who shall have been preserved till this time a distinct people in all the nations, among which they are dispersed, as entirely so, as if their names were registered in a book, shall now be delivered, collected and established in great peace and prosperity in the holy land. The prophets, and after them our Lord, and his apostle John in the Revelation, all represent the time of the conversion of the Jews, and their return to the holy land, as a time of great trouble.

After these and the contemporary events, which we are led from the prophecies to expect, shall have happened, then will follow, how soon after we know not, the general resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment, to which the following verses undoubtedly refer; “And many of them, that sleep in the dust of the earth (many being here put for all [Rom. v. 15]) shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.”

The Lord Jesus Christ, by his Spirit, having dictated to his holy and beloved prophet the whole series of grand events, which were to happen from the time these prophecies were penned, to the complete establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth, and even to the end of time, directs Daniel to close his sacred records, which would remain obscure, and but partially understood, “till the time of the end,” till the events predicted should be actually happening in view of the world. Then many will be running to and fro through the earth, and knowledge will be increased. And as these times will be full of trouble, such as the world at no former period ever witnessed; and also times of increased light and knowledge; both will conspire to purify the souls of good men, who shall have understanding in the times. “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried, and the wise shall understand; but the wicked shall do wickedly, and shall not understand;” they shall be given up to blindness and obstinacy of heart, because they will persist in their wickedness, against all the light and evidence, which shall surround them, and they shall have nothing to support them, under the trials, which shall befall them in that awful period. .

Such I conceive to be the meaning of the text. In fixing it, I have consulted the best helps within my reach. I have been thus particular in bringing into view and explaining the prophecies, immediately connected with the text, for the purpose of ascertaining, as far as practicable, the time, when we are to expect the events, which it predicts. If our interpretation be correct, the events, which are to fulfill this prophecy, are near at hand, or they may be even now passing in view of the present generation. In the sequel of this discourse therefore I propose,

I. To exhibit evidence to shew, that the prophecy in the text has not yet received its ultimate and highest accomplishment, but is probably fulfilling by the events of the present time.

II. To show what effects we are to expect will follow these events.

III. To apply the subject.

I. I am to exhibit evidence to show, that the prophecy in the text has not yet received its ultimate and highest accomplishment, but is probably fulfilling by the events of the present time.

Some prophecies, says Lord Bacon, “are not fulfilled punctually, at once, but have a springing and germinant accomplishment throughout many ages, though the height, or fullness of them, may refer to someone age.”[Advancement of Learning. Book ii. in English] Precisely of this character, I conceive, is the prophecy now under consideration. To the period, when the Christian religion was first introduced and propagated in the world, the words of this prophecy may be literally applied, “Many ran to and fro through the earth, and knowledge was increased.” And “many were purified and made white, and tried,” by cruel persecutions. “The wicked” then “did wickedly, and none of the wicked understood” the signs of the times; “but the wise did understand.”

Wonderful was the revolution effected in the world by the introduction of the Christian religion. The preparations made for this event, by the providence of God, corresponded with its magnitude. The Roman Empire embraced almost the whole world, and its inhabitants universally spoke the Greek or Roman language. These were the languages of their courts, of their laws, of their priests and learned men, of their worship, and of their books generally. These circumstances, it is easy to conceive, were adapted wonderfully to facilitate the spread of the Gospel. The Jews, in consequence of their frequent captivities, were dispersed extensively among the surrounding nations; and, having carried with them a knowledge of the true God, prepared the way for the conversion of those nations. The Hebrew Scriptures had been translated into the Greek language, and were thus prepared to be dispersed and read in due time among that extensive portion of the heathen nations, to which this language was vernacular.* See Note A.

About this time also the proselytes of the gate, as they were called, were greatly multiplied. These were persons from various parts of the world, who had renounced heathenism, acknowledged and worshipped the true God, but had not fully embraced Judaism;[See Jennings’ Jewish Antiquities, vol. i. p. 131] and thus, freed from the prejudices of both, were prepared to receive the new religion, which Christ came to establish. The first Gentile converts to Christianity were chiefly of this class of people. We may add, as another remarkable event preparatory to the spread of the Gospel, that previously to the advent of our Savior, philosophy and the arts were cultivated to a great extent, and advanced to a high degree of perfection. Thus the minds of men were refined and prepared to examine the evidence on which Christianity claimed to be believed; and, through the power of the Holy Ghost, to embrace, defend, and propagate its sublime and heavenly doctrines. The heathen nations moreover had become tired of their religion, and of their idol gods; they had ceased to consult their oracles, and to respect their priests, and sighed for a change.[Millar’s Hist, of Christianity, vol. i. p. 255]

These preparations being made by the providence of God, the expected Messiah made his appearance, and set up his kingdom in the world. His disciples, at first few in number and of no reputation or influence among men, soon increased to a multitude. Within less than forty years after the death of Christ, his gospel was preached, and by great numbers embraced, in all the celebrated cities and countries, and even in the remote provinces and villages, of Asia, Europe, and Africa, comprising the whole of the then known world. The Sun of Righteousness darted his genial beams in every direction over the earth. The heralds of the Savior, sent forth, “their sound into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world.”[Rom.x.18] Before the generation, who were contemporary with our Lord, had “passed away,[Matt.xxiv.14,34] the Gospel was preached throughout the world, (i. e. through all the Roman empire, among gentiles as well as Jews,) for a witness unto all nations.”

Clement, a fellow laborer with the apostles, asserts, that “St. Paul taught the whole world righteousness, having preached both in the east and in the west, and traveled to the utmost bounds of the west.” It is believed by many, that he preached the gospel even in Britain. According to Justin Martyr, “there was no nation, no sort of men, whether Greeks or barbarians, no country, however rude or unpolished, where prayers and thanksgivings were not presented to the Father and Creator of all things, through the name of the crucified Jesus.” Lanctantius says, if “the Christian law is entertained from the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same, where every sex, age, nation, and country, does with one heart and soul worship God.” Irenaeus and Tertullian bear full testimony to the same facts. The latter,* after enumerating the principal portions of the world, where the gospel had been preached, concludes thus, “In all these places the name of Christ reigns, because he has now come, before whom the gates of all cities are set open, and none shut; before whom doors of brass fly open, and bars of iron are snapt asunder; that is, those hearts, once possessed by the devil, by faith in Christ are set open.”

The opening of the Christian era, and the first spread of the Gospel over the world, we may therefore consider as commencing the fulfillment of the prophecy under consideration. At this period “many ran to and fro through the earth, and knowledge was increased. Many were purified, and made white, and tried.”

It has received a “germinant accomplishment,” to use the words of Lord Bacon, in succeeding ages of the church; particularly during the three first centuries, and when Constantine ordered all the heathen temples to be destroyed, and established Christianity, as the religion of his empire, about the year 331. Also, and especially at the period of the Reformation, and the consequent revival and spread of the true religion, as well as of learning, philosophy, and the useful arts.

But considerations brought into view in the beginning of this discourse, and others of great weight, lead us to conclude that the highest and complete fulfillment of this prophecy is yet future; or perhaps we have entered on the period, in which it is to receive its full and ultimate accomplishment. Judging * from the course of events for the last half century, particularly of the last twenty years, we are constrained to believe that God in his providence has been, and is preparing the world for some grand revolution, some wonderful display of his sovereign and almighty power. Such a revolution is plainly foretold by the prophets; and from the language, which they use in describing it, as well as from the preparations, which are making to introduce it, we are left to infer that, though in many points it will resemble, yet it will on the whole far surpass, in magnitude and effect, that which took place at the opening of the Christian era.

Whether the world is again to be reduced to two languages and one grand empire, so far, as shall be necessary to free intercourse and the diffusion of useful knowledge among the various nations of the globe, cannot be foreseen. What God in his providence has once done for the accomplishment of one grand Revolution, he can and may do again, if necessary, to effect another of a similar kind and of greater magnitude. By a more extensive commercial intercourse among the nations; by wars, conquests, and revolutions; by raising up a modem Alexander, to subjugate a large portion of the world; by an increase and diffusion of knowledge, derived from travellers, and enterprises for discovery; especially by means of Missionaries, who are already scattered in every part of the world, and every day are increasing in number, and exploring some new region; not only learning the languages of the nations, but communicating the knowledge of their own; by all these and other means, which Divine providence may ordain, may not the English and French languages become to the world, what the Latin and Greek languages were before the Christian era? And may not the vast domains of some modern Alexander, become united with the dominions of some other great power, corresponding to the Roman Republic in the days of Alexander, and so the mass of mankind, be once more combined in one grand and universal empire.

As, by their peculiar situation, the Jews were formerly made subservient to the conversion of the Gentiles; so this remarkable people are to be used, according to prophecy, for the same end, at some future period. The conversion of the Jews, and their to return the Holy Land, will accomplish so many prophecies, in so public and signal a manner, as to confute and silence infidelity in every form. The attention of the whole world will be excited to this wonderful display of the mighty power of God, in fulfilling his word; and the effectual influence of his Holy Spirit, converting the nations, and bringing in “the fullness of the Gentiles,”[Rom.xi.25] will render genuine Christianity universally triumphant, [Note B.]

But it is time to direct your attention to events of the present day, which remarkably correspond with the prophecy under consideration, and appear to be fulfilling it in its highest ultimate intention. All, who have taken pains to acquaint themselves to any considerable extent with what has been passing in the world, particularly since the commencement of the American Revolution, and who duly consider the existing state of things, and the prospects of still greater changes, than any which have yet taken place, must be constrained to acknowledge, that it is now true, in a degree more remarkable than at any former period of the world, that many are “running to and fro in the earth, and that knowledge is increasing.” We now enter an immense field, over which we have time only to cast a rapid glance.

Men of enterprise and intelligence, moving in all directions, by land and sea, prompted by motives of gain, of literary curiosity, of fame; or by the refined and exalted motive of benevolence to the souls of men; are running to and fro, exploring every inhabited spot on the globe; publishing and circulating, in various languages and forms, accounts of their discoveries, and thus adding immensely to the stock of useful knowledge in all its branches. The details, which would abundantly illustrate and confirm the truth of what we have now asserted, would fill volumes, and will not be expected in a single discourse. We can only point your attention to a few prominent facts out of the multitudes, that crowd upon the mind.

First, as to the American Continent, “many are running to and fro” through this portion of the globe, “and knowledge is increased.” The northwestern and northeastern coasts of this extensive Continent, the only parts of the seacoast, before unknown, have been minutely surveyed, by skilful navigators, and an acquaintance formed, and commercial intercourse opened with the native tribes bordering upon them. These things have prepared the way for planting a number of English, Russian, and Danish colonies in regions, which, till within a few years, were classed under the head of “Unknown Lands.” These colonies, formed by Christian and civilized nations, (for different purposes indeed,) are doubtless designed by Providence, as so many stands, whence, in due time, will be diffused over those dark regions the light of science and religion. In aid of this desirable event, the interior of North America has been lately explored by enterprising travelers in different directions, from the waters of the Atlantic to the coasts of the Pacific Ocean; so that few portions of it, of any great extent, now remain unknown. [Note C.]

In like manner, the interior of South America has been extensively traversed by men of science, and a knowledge of the inhabitants, and of the situation and resources of the several countries, acquired. These discoveries, together with the revolutions and changes in government and property, which have happened, and which are still taking place in rapid progression, have already prepared the way, and are opening it still further and wider, for the heralds of the Savior to go forth into every corner of the Continent, where inhabitants are to be found, to proclaim the glad tidings of his Gospel. Multitudes of these heralds, taking up their cross, and putting their lives in their hands, have already spread themselves, in different stations, either among the heathen tribes, or in the frontier and destitute Christian settlements, over a great part of the Continent, from Greenland on the north, to Patagonia on the south.[Note.D] And multitudes more, we may reasonably hope, will shortly be added to them, when it is considered, that Missionary and Bible Societies are increasing beyond all former example, which of course must increase the means of supporting Missionaries and diffusing religious knowledge; and that the Lord, in a wonderful manner, is inclining the hearts of suitable men to engage in this self-denying service, and providing means for educating them for this purpose.[Note.E]

From the Western we direct your attention to the Eastern Continent. There too, in a still more remarkable manner, “Many are running to and fro, and knowledge is increased.” We behold scenes of amazing interest on that vast theater; scenes which are rapidly fulfilling this, as well as other prophecies of Scripture.

It is remarkable, that the doctrine of Mahomet was forged at Mecca, and the supremacy of the Pope established by a grant from Phocas, [Phocas was Byzantine Emperor from 602 to 610. He usurped the throne from the Emperor Maurice, and was himself overthrown by Heraclius after losing a civil war] in the very same year, that is, Anno Dom. 606. Hence it is inferred, that, as the eastern and western antichrists began their reign together, their expected overthrow will happen about the same time; and that time, according to the best interpretation of prophecy, is probably near at hand, even at the door. The overthrow of these gigantic powers, which will shake all nations by their fall, is to be speedily followed, according to prophecy, by the return of the Jews to the Holy Land; and this signal event by the conversion of the Gentiles; and thus “the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.”[Rev. xi. 15.]

Preparatory to these tremendous and delightful events, and during their progress, as a part of the appropriate means of their accomplishment, “Many will be running to and fro through the earth, and knowledge will be increased.” Several of the prophecies, by different events, will be fulfilling at the same time. Accordingly we find that, while the Papal and Mahometan powers, assailed by wars, which are deluging in blood and desolating one country after another, are tottering to their final fall; and while the instruments, raised up and fitted by Divine providence to destroy these powers, are executing their bloody work, “Many are running to and fro, and knowledge is increased.” Voyages and enterprises for discovery by sea and land have been planned and executed to an uncommon extent, and with great success. The islands in every ocean have been visited; the coasts and harbors of every country on the globe have been surveyed. The vast interior regions of Africa, which a few years since were unknown to the civilized and Christian world, have been penetrated, in various directions, by adventurous and intelligent travellers, and are likely soon to be as well known, as other portions of the globe; and establishments are already formed, with prospects of extensive good effects, for diffusing among them a knowledge of the sciences, and of the arts of civilized life.[ Note F.]

In Asia, in ways still more remarkable, “many are running to and fro, and knowledge is increasing.” The Asiatic Society [Founded in 1784, by Sir William Jones, who was its brightest ornament] has effected wonders in the acquisition and diffusion of useful knowledge in that populous portion of the world. Travelers of great name and authority have visited some of the principal nations of Asia, and have added largely to the general stock of knowledge.

These discoveries, and the information, which in consequence of them has been acquired, relative to the character, languages, manners, customs, religion, government, and history, of the nations visited, have prepared the way for Missionaries of the cross. These self-denying friends of the Redeemer and of the souls of the heathen, filled with Christian zeal, are flocking in great numbers to this vast field of Missionary labor, which has long been whitening for harvest. From Great Britain, and her colonies, whose Missionary and Bible Societies, literary establishments, and other benevolent, richly endowed, and well directed Associations, have done more for the diffusion of Christian and other useful knowledge, than all the world beside; from Germany, Denmark, Holland, and we are happy now to add, from New England, have gone, and are going forth, a succession of Missionaries, who are spreading themselves in Europe and its islands, in North and South America, in the West Indies, in the islands of the Pacific Ocean, in Africa and its islands, in New Holland, in the thickly peopled islands in the Indian Ocean, in China, in Tartary, in Hindoostan, and in many other parts of Asia.* Many of these Missionaries, with almost incredible industry, perseverance, and success, are engaged in translating the Holy Scriptures, into the languages of the most numerous Pagan nations. Thousands, probably millions, of copies of the sacred volume, in these different languages, have already been printed and circulated among people, ignorant of the Gospel. Many have been the converts of these holy men of God, and among them not a few of the learned and influential men of these heathen nations, who, full of love to the Savior, and zeal for his cause, of thankfulness for the blessings they have received, and concern for the souls of their countrymen, have themselves become successful preachers and Missionaries of the cross, [See “The Star in the East,” a Discourse by Rev. Dr. Buchanan, reprinted in Philadelphia by Bradford; and in Boston by Monroe & Francis; a discourse, which should be read by every Christian.] And what is worthy of particular notice, a seed sown by one of the Apostles of our Lord in the heart of Asia, which has ever since been germinating, secluded from the eye of the Christian world, has been lately visited, and under the nurturing care of wise and faithful servants of Jesus Christ, is likely to prove an eminently fruitful branch of the Christian church, in a region desolate and barren in the fruits of righteousness. I allude to the Christians of St. Thomas, or as they are now called, the Syrian Christians, in Malayala, a sequestered region of Hindoostan. These Christians, More than 200,000 in number having 55 churches whose faith and worship resemble those of the Church of England, and who have among them ancient and authentic copies of the holy Scriptures, profess to have descended in regular succession from converts to the Christian faith, made by St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of our Lord, who it is said here preached the Gospel, and suffered martyrdom.[Note H.] These Malayalan churches are connected with 215 other Christian churches in Mesopotamia and Syria, which are oppressed with difficulties and struggling for existence, [Panoplist vol. iii. P. 527] Measures have probably been adopted effectually to relieve these churches, to strengthen the things which remain and are ready to die, and to render them, as from their local and relative situation they may be rendered, subservient to the extensive propagation of the Gospel in the regions around them.

* A full account of these Missionaries, of their labors, sufferings, and success, is given in the reports of the London, Baptist, Edinburgh, United Brethren’s, and other Missionary Societies in Great Britain; compendious extracts of which may be found in the Panoplist and Missionary Magazine, and other works of the kind in the United States.

But I must forbear. The subject is vast and inexhaustible. The events of the present day seem to be adapted and designed, by the Providence of God, to prepare the world to receive the Gospel; and at the same time the appropriate means are preparing and in operation to an extent altogether unparalleled for diffusing the knowledge of its blessed truths to every creature under heaven. Thus we see that at the present period, “Many are running to and fro through the earth, and knowledge is increased.”

I have time only to glance very briefly over the second branch of discourse, which was,

II. TO show, what effects we are to expect from the events, which have been briefly described. “Many, (says the Prophet,) shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” Such are the events we are to look for, whenever the prophecy we have been considering shall be fulfilling. If we look back to the opening of the Christian era, to the time when the Apostles of our Lord first preached the Gospel in the world, we shall perceive with delight its astonishing effects upon the characters and conduct of men. In all, who enjoyed its benign influence, and embraced its divine truths, it produced amiable, holy, and heavenly dispositions. In the humble disciples of Jesus, every quality, which could adorn the human character, was to be found; and great, in the first ages of Christianity, was the multitude, of these children of God, scattered in different parts of the world. Still there were multitudes more, who persisted in doing wickedly, and did not understand the things, which belonged to their peace. .

Effects like these, but in magnitude and extent still greater, we are to look for, agreeably to prophecy, at the period of the other grand Revolution in the Christian church, of which we have spoken, and which is yet to come. If such effects begin to exist, at the present day, to a remarkable extent, they furnish evidence, that this prophecy is now fulfilling before our eyes.

The terms, “purified, made white, and tried,” when used by the Prophet to express these effects, plainly indicate that the period, when “many shall run to and fro through the earth, and knowledge shall be increased,” will be a period of great sufferings. And such a period we are forewarned by the Prophet to expect; “And there shall be a time,” (and this time is that, in which the prophecy under consideration will be accomplishing,) “and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time.”[Dan. xii. 1.] How many years this period of trouble will continue we know not. Judging from the present state of the world, we have probably entered upon it. Its darkest part is doubtless yet to come. For we are taught in the prophecies to expect that the world, which now lieth in wickedness, is one day to be punished with most awful judgments of Heaven. “Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and he shall destroy the sinners out of it. For the stars of heaven, and the constellations thereof, shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine; and I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” (Isaiah xiii. 9, 10, 11.) Also, Isa. xxvi. two last verses. “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself, as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For behold, the Lord cometh out of his place, to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.”

While the Lord shall be thus executing his strange work, in punishing the nations for their wickedness, he will, at the same time, by new and uncommon means, be spreading his word, and the light of his Gospel, and increasing every species of useful knowledge; and will, by the instrumentality of this knowledge and these judgments, purify multitudes of people, who will hereafter be numbered among those, who will be arrayed in white, and will have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.[Rev. vii. 13, 14.]

Are not effects of the mixed nature, we have now described, every day produced, and coming to our knowledge from every part of the world? While the judgments of God are in the earth, are not some of the inhabitants in every part of the world learning righteousness?[Isaiah xxvi. 9.] Look at the tragedy, which is now acting on the theater of Europe, at which the world is gazing with astonishment; what are its effects? Are not multitudes purified by it, and made white, and tried? Is not God, in this manner, removing those obstacles to the progress of useful knowledge and the pure Gospel of Christ, which for ages have been accumulating in that region, where ignorance and superstition have prevailed to so great an extent among the people, and preparing the way for better times, and a better order of things? Amid these scenes we behold the Christian church remarkably preserved, awake to her true interests, and zealous to advance them; tried by various opposition, yet purified and made white by her sufferings; rising in glory, increasing daily in numbers, and extending her influence rapidly over the world. Thus the wrath of man is made to praise God, good is educed out of evil, order out of confusion. The church, during this dismal period, will resemble Israel in the land of Goshen, at the time when the darkness, which was felt, brooded over the Egyptians; her members will have light in all their dwellings, be shielded from the destroying angel under the wing of the Almighty. While the wicked, who will obstinately persist in doing wickedly, and who will not understand the prophecies, nor observe the signs of the times, nor regard the judgments of Heaven, will resemble the Egyptians, when under judicial darkness; the things, which belong to their peace, will be hidden from their eyes; they will be left to fill up the measure of their sins, and to ripen for some signal overthrow. “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root, nor branch. But unto you, that fear my name, shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings.[ Malachi iv. 1, 2.]

Such, as we have now exhibited, is the evidence, that the prophecy in the text has not yet received its highest and ultimate accomplishment, but is now receiving it in the events of the present time; and such are some of the effects, which we may expect to follow these events. The application of the subject remains.

The period of the world, in which we have our probationary existence, is an eventful period. The aspect of the times is portentous in an uncommon degree. Changes and revolutions, which affect not only the peace and prosperity, but the existence of nations, are continually announced to the public. Indeed we may now say, what was said more than twelve years ago, and with still more evidence to support its truth, than then existed, that, “Wonder has succeeded wonder for so long a period, and in such regular succession, that wonders have now become the ordinary course of events, “[*Dr. Dwight’s Sermon on 4th of July, 1798]

*On July 4th, 1798, Dwight delivered an address entitled, “The Duty of Americans, at the Present Crisis,” which analyzed the downside of the French Revolution and offered a lesson to America. Dwight declared:

“Where religion prevails…a nation cannot be made slaves, nor villains, nor atheists, nor beasts. To destroy us therefore, in this dreadful sense, our enemies must first destroy our Sabbath and seduce us from the house of God. Religion and liberty are the two great objects of defensive war. Conjoined, they united all the feelings and call forth all the energies of man….

Religion and liberty are the meat and the drink of the body politic. Withdraw one of them and it languishes, consumes, and dies. If indifference to either, at any time, becomes the prevailing character of a people, one half of their motives to vigorous defense is lost, and the hopes of their enemies are proportionally increased. Here, eminently, they are inseparable.

Without religion we may possibly retain the freedom of savages, bears, and wolves, but not the freedom of New England. If our religion were gone, our state of society would perish with it; and nothing would be left, which would be worth defending.”

My design in selecting the text, and my single object in the preceding discourse, has been to awaken the attention of my audience in general, and particularly that of the religious Society now assembled, to the “signs of the times.” If this object have been in any degree attained, by the facts and observations now presented before you, we shall the more readily perceive, what are our appropriate duties, and be more easily persuaded to discharge them.

If there be any reasonable foundation to believe, that the representation, we have given of the present state of the world is correct, it is surely high time for us to awake out of sleep, to fix our eyes on the great events, which are passing before us; to compare them attentively with the predictions of the inspired prophets, and then to act wisely for ourselves, for our families, for the church of God, for our country, and for our fellow men in general. The course, which wisdom dictates to us with reference to these several objects, is obvious. Our first care should be for ourselves, that our own peace be made with God; knowing that there is no safety in perilous, nor indeed in any times, but in his friendship and protection. Our next care should be for our families, which are a part of ourselves, that they be diligently and faithfully instructed and governed, and so far, as depends on us, prepared to meet and endure the trials, which await them. No pious parent, who loves his offspring, and discerns the aspect of the times, will be satisfied without doing all he can, to secure their salvation. After that we should be concerned for the church, the ark of God, in which all its true members will be safe, during this stormy period of the world. Her interests should be dear to us. For her prosperity we should continually pray. “For Zion’s sake, we should not hold our peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake, we should not rest, till the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof, as a lamp that burneth.” While we perceive a deluge of troubles about to overwhelm the world, we should lift up our warning voice, and do what we can to persuade all, over whom we have influence, to enter into the ark, that they may be safe. Love to that country also, which our offspring after us are, to inhabit, with such scenes of trouble in prospect, should excite in us deep solicitude, and prompt our fervent prayers for its reformation, its safety, and prosperity. We should feel a tender sympathy for a suffering world, and pray that the righteous God would in mercy cut short these days of his vengeance, and hasten the period of the Redeemer’s universal reign, when his will shall be done on earth, as it is done in heaven.

These duties wisdom prescribes to us all; and the peculiar aspect of the times, and the prospect before us, imperiously demand our attentive performance of them. The friends of the Redeemer, we have reason to expect, will discern these prophetic signs of the times, and be prompted by them to vigorous exertions in his cause; but the eyes of his enemies will be closed. “The wicked shall do wickedly, and shall not understand.” Infidels, and those, who harmonize with infidels in sentiment and practice, will not perceive what God is doing in the earth. While he is using them, as instruments in his hand, to accomplish his prophecies; intent on their own purposes, they will think they are prospered. “Whom God wills to destroy, he first permits to be infatuated.” The Apostle has given us warning that there will come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, where is the promise of his coming? For, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue, as they were from the beginning of the creation.”[2 Peter iii. 3,4] If such characters should appear, and such language be heard, in these times, which bear so many marks of the “last days,” we shall not be surprised.

To the Christian Society now assembled, to pay their annual and united homage to God in his sanctuary, I now turn my address.

Fathers and Brethren. “The Society for propagating the Gospel among the Indians and others in North America,” is the first Institution of the kind established in America, and yet it is but of recent origin. It has been in operation but twenty three years. During this period, we have the satisfaction to believe that its exertions have been extensively useful, not only to the few remains of Indian tribes, still among us, but more especially to the destitute inhabitants of the eastern division of this Commonwealth, to which its attention has been hitherto principally directed. [For a particular historical account of the origin, proceedings, and present state, of this Society, see Appendix]

The grand design of this Society is sufficiently expressed by its name. This design, its members’ have endeavored, according to their means, to accomplish, by supporting Missionaries, aiding the settlement of Ministers, patronizing Schools, and distributing the holy Scriptures, and useful books of various kinds, in places where such aid seemed peculiarly important.” The funds of the Society, aided by liberal grants from the Legislature, for a course of years, and other donations of large amount, which delicacy forbids me more particularly to specify, have enabled the Society to do much in these ways, for the religious improvement of a large and very useful body of our necessitous fellow citizens. For a few of the last years, the Society has directed its attention, and a portion of its funds, to the destitute in several of the neighboring states.[To Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, and Canada] The field of usefulness is every day extending; and, were the funds of the Society much larger than they are, they could be employed to great advantage in meliorating the condition, and promoting the salvation, of the ignorant and suffering part of our fellow men.

Since the establishment of this Society, many others have been instituted for like purposes, in this, and in most of the other states; and yet there is ample scope for all their exertions, and for the employment of all their means. The increase of these Institutions, the liberality with which they are supported, and the zeal with which their pious and benevolent objects are pursued, and the success with which their labors are rewarded, augur well to our country, and to the cause of our Redeemer. Let the members of this parent Society, which has led the way in these benevolent and most useful establishments, be animated with increasing zeal in their labors of love to the souls of their fellow men, and still maintain the rank they sustain, and be an example in Christian zeal and fidelity, to other similar Institutions. Let love to God, and love to men, prompt and govern all our measures and exertions; so shall we manifest that we are among the “wise, who understand,” secure the liberal patronage of the friends of the Redeemer, and best accomplish the grand object of our Institution.

Particularly let the peculiar and serious aspect of the times, and the wonderful means, which are in operation in all parts of the world, to effect the same glorious object, which we have in view, inspire us with corresponding ardor to be co-workers with our fellow Christians, and with God, in alleviating the miseries, which have already come, and are fast thickening, upon our guilty world, and which are preparing the way for the millennial peace.

To our efforts let us join our prayers and say, “Arise, Oh Lord, let thy work appear before thy servants, and let the whole earth be filled with thy glory.” Let the united prayers of the multitudes of thy saints on earth come up before, thee, as incense, that the great voices may soon be heard in heaven, saying, “Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever, Amen.”

NOTES

Note A.

ABOUT two hundred and seventy years before the birth of Christ, the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into the Greek language, and deposited in the famous Alexandrian Library, by Ptolemy Philadelphus, one of the kings of Egypt.* Here they remained neglected, till the time of our Savior. At this period this version was rescued from obscurity, and brought into use among all who spoke the Greek language, heathens as well as Jews. Our Savior and his Apostles all quoted this version, as did the primitive fathers. All the Greek churches used it, and the bible of the Latin churches, was a translation of it. The converted nations had the Scriptures translated into their language ‘ from this version, as the Illyrian, the Gothic, the Arabic, the Ethiopic, the Armenian, and the Syriac.

It is remarkable, that at the time when the Septuagint translation of the Scriptures was made, God had brought under the dominion of the Greeks, by the instrumentality of Alexander the Great, all the eastern nations of the world; and that they continued members of the Grecian Empire, at the time of our Savior, and during the period of the first propagation of the Gospel. “In this manner did God remarkably prepare the way for the preaching of the Gospel, which was then approaching, and facilitate the union of so many nations of different languages and manners into one society, and the same worship and doctrines, by the instrumentality of the purest, most copious, and correct language in the world, and which became common to all the countries, which were conquered by Alexander.”[ Rollin’s Ancient History, vol. vi.p. 79. Etheridge’s edition]

* Various fabulous and contradictory accounts of this translation have been given by Aristeat, and other authors. Those who wish to see a full and satisfactory view of this whole subject, may consult Pridcaux’s Connections of the Old and New Testament, part ii. chap. i. p. 28—64.

Note B.

The late movements among the Jews, particularly the convocation of the Grand Sanhedrim at Paris by Bonaparte, This Assembly consisted of 111 members. (July 15th, 1806,) may be considered as distant indications that the period of their dispersion is drawing to a close, and that a way. preparing for their return to the holy land. In remarking on this extraordinary assembly and its designs, it has been said, “The Deputies from the Dutch Jews and those from Frankfort on the Main, have been admitted into the Sanhedrim of France and Italy, and have declared their determination to adhere to its decisions. It will doubtless be the policy of Bonaparte, to attach to his person and government, the whole body of this dispersed, and enterprising people, and to avail himself of their services in promoting his ambitious views. The ready entrance, which they obtain into every country of Europe, makes them peculiarly fit instruments for his purposes.”[Christian Observer, vol vi. p. 405.] What effects are to follow from this meeting of the Grand Sanhedrim, and in what ways it may tend to effect the return of this scattered people to the country of their ancestors, cannot be foreseen.

This extraordinary people, by a standing miracle, have been preserved for nearly 1800 years, distinct from all the nations among which they have been dispersed. By means of their holy scriptures they have maintained a general uniformity in their religious faith, and a knowledge of their original language, in which they can readily converse, and maintain intercourse with each other. The meeting and transactions of this Grand Assembly may therefore be intended by Divine Providence, (though the Emperor of France, who convoked it, doubtless had quite different objects in view,) to give rise to a more intimate and extensive connection and correspondence between the scattered remains of the tribes of Israel, wherever they are found, and to lay plans for combining their pecuniary means, and their influence in effecting, in due time, not merely the ambitious views of an earthly monarch, but the purposes of Heaven, and the object of the desire and expectation of this people, viz. a return to the holy land. The following extracts from the work alluded to, give countenance to these conjectures

The learned and eloquent President [Abraham Furtado, of Bourdeaux] of this Sanhedrim, in an address to the Commissioners of the Emperor, has the following sentence. “Methinks I see the muse holding her immortal burin, and tracing on her adamant table, amidst so many deeds, which make this reign so conspicuous, that which the hero of the age has done to destroy utterly the barrier raised between nations, and the scattered remains of the most ancient people.” This expression marks the extent of the views of this Assembly.

In a communication of the Emperor to the Sanhedrim arc the following passages, from which some of his views may be collected, that have a bearing on the subject in question.

“In return for his gracious protection, His Majesty requires a religious pledge for the strict adherence to the principles contained in your answers. This assembly, constituted as it is now, could not of itself give such a security. Its answers, converted into decisions by another assembly, of a nature still more dignified and more religious, must find a place near the Talmud, and thus acquire, in the eyes of the Jews of all countries and of all ages, the greatest possible authority. It is also the only means left to you to meet the grand and generous views of His Majesty, and to impart, to all of your persuasion, the blessings of this new era.

“The purity of your law has, no doubt, been altered by the crowd of commentators, and the diversity of their opinions must have thrown doubts in the minds of those who read them. It will be then a most important service, conferred on the whole Jewish-community, to fix their belief on those points which have been submitted to you. To find, in the history of Israel, an assembly capable of attaining the object now in view, we must go back to the Great Sanhedrim, and it is the Great Sanhedrim, which His Majesty this day intends to convene. This senate, destroyed together with the temple, will rise again to enlighten the people it formerly governed: although dispersed throughout the whole world, it will bring back the Jews to the true meaning of the law, by giving interpretations, which shall set aside the corrupted glosses of commentators; it will teach them to love and to defend the country they inhabit; it will convince them that the land, where, for the first time since their dispersion, they have been able to raise their voice, is entitled to all those sentiments, which rendered their ancient country so dear to them.

“Lastly, the Great Sanhedrim, according to ancient custom, will be composed of seventy members, exclusive of the President. The duties of the Great Sanhedrim shall be to convert into religious doctrines the answers already given by this assembly, and likewise, those which may result from the continuance of your sittings.

“For you will observe, Gentlemen, your mission is not fulfilled; it will last as long as that of the Great Sanhedrim, which will only ratify your answers and give them a greater weight; His Majesty is, besides, too well satisfied with your zeal and with the purity of your intentions, to dissolve this assembly before the accomplishment of the great work in which you are called to assist.

“In the first instance it is fit that you should name by ballot a committee of nine members to prepare, with us, the groundwork of our future discussions, and of the decisions of the Sanhedrim. You will observe that the Portuguese, German, and Italian Jews, are equally represented in this committee. We also invite you to acquaint the several Synagogues of Europe of the meeting of the Great Sanhedrim without delay, that they may send deputies able to give to government additional information, and worthy of communicating with you.”

The Sanhedrim, in reply to the Emperor’s communication, say, that “his Majesty the Emperor, in allowing the formation of a Great Sanhedrim, has anticipated the wishes and the wants of all those, who profess the religion of Moses, in Europe, &c.” They direct “That a proclamation shall be addressed by this Assembly to all the Synagogues of the French Empire, of Italy, and of Europe, to acquaint them, that” on the 20th of October next, (1806,) the Great Sanhedrim will open in Paris, under the protection, and by the special permission of his Majesty.”

In the address of the Israelites of Frankfort on the Main, to the Grand Sanhedrim, are the following expressions indicative of their views.

“May the glorious example of France extend beyond the limits of its Empire.’ May the humanity of its sovereign gain ground over the whole earth, and produce a noble sentiment of emulation, by which we shall be admitted to share the happiness of our brethren, instead of a barren sentiment of admiration! May the Rulers of mankind lend an attentive ear to the mournful voice of an insulted nation! O Divine Goodness! deign to cast a look of mercy on a people formerly the object of thy complacency? Inspire the masters of the world! Move their hearts in favor Israel!”

The President, in his reply, echoes these sentiments in the following language.

“The impulse given by France, the influence of its opinions on the European continent, indulge a hope that many states will be proud to follow its example.

“The time will come when people shall no longer give vent to those odious and ridiculous passions which were gratified by our humiliation.

“The career of esteem and of consideration is open for us let us enter it with a bold step; let us divest ourselves of the rust of prejudices. Thus shall we conquer the prejudices of others.”

In 1809, a society was formed in London for the express purpose of promoting the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. They commenced their active labors in March, of this year. From their report in November following, it appears that their benevolent efforts are likely to be extensively useful. A chapel has been opened for Rev. Mr. Frey, who preaches Sabbath evenings, to a crowded audience, many of them Jews. Their free school, not confined however to Jews, contains upwards of 300 children. One of the principal Jews in the kingdom, has lately been baptized, and made vice president of the society. A learned Rabbi lately from Palestine, has embraced the Christian faith, and is placed under able instruction, in hope that he may become a minister of the gospel, in due time among his brethren in his native country.[Christian Observer, vol. viii. p. 739.]

From the foregoing, the reader will perceive, that the first steps, in Divine Providence, toward a return of the Jews to the Holy Land, are probably already taken, in the events now brought into view. The Grand Sanhedrin, of Europe,* composed of representatives from every community in this quarter of the world, under the protection and direction of the Emperor of France, may, it is conceived, at no great distance of time, attach to itself, and bring under its influence and control, all the scattered remains of this people throughout the globe. Such a course of events, with the concurring efforts to convert them to the faith of the Gospel, it is easy to perceive, prepares the way, and very naturally leads on to their return agreeably to prophecy, to the land of their fathers.

* Europe contains probably one half the whole number of Jews on the globe; and these embrace almost the whole of the learning and talents of the nation. More than 13,000 Jews inhabit the single city of Prague.

“Therefore thus saith the Lord God; now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name. After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid. When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them from out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations; then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them anymore there. Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God.”[ Ezekiel xxxix. 25, to the end.]

Note C.

The Russians were the first to survey the North West coast of America. After them, Cook, Meares, Dixon, Vancouver, La Perouse, and many other able navigators, American as well as European, have almost perfected our knowledge of this coast. Mr. Hearne, in 1769, to 1772, and Mr. Mackenzie, in 1789, proceeding from the English settlements on Hudson’s Bay in different courses to the N. W. visited the Frozen Ocean. In 1792, 1798, the latter gentleman had the honor of being the first European, who visited the Pacific Ocean, by an inland journey from the English settlements above named. Captains Clarke and Lewis, under the auspices of our own government, have since visited this Ocean in another direction. And I am informed, that a little colony is already on the way, partly by land across the continent, but principally by water, with a view to plant themselves on the waters of the Pacific Ocean, at the mouth of Columbia river. The Russians have a settlement on this coast further North, which, according to Hassel, consists of about 800 souls.[Hassel’s Tables, 1809] In Greenland, the Danish government have a colony of 6,100 souls. The British colonies are spreading their settlements around Hudson Bay, on the Labrador coast, (of which country Mr. Cartwright has published an interesting description,) and in Upper Canada. The enterprising inhabitants of the United States are already in companies passing the Mississippi, and planting themselves in the newly acquired territory of Louisiana. Journeys from the Atlantic states, to the Pacific Ocean, will probably soon become as common, and excite as little public attention, as a voyage round the world.

Note D.

In Greenland the United Brethren, or Moravians, and the Danes, support missionaries, at Lichtenau, Newherrnhut, and Lichtenfels; the former place is surrounded by heathen inhabitants, among whom the missionaries arc laboring with zeal and success. But the inhabitants around the other two settlements, consist chiefly of persons baptized by the Brethren, and educated in Christian principles. Those, who do not belong to the Brethren’s church, have all been baptized by the Danish missionaries, so that No Trace Of Paganism Is Now Left In That Neighborhood. [See the 38th No. of the periodical accounts of the Brethren. 1804.]

In Labrador the Moravians have missionaries stationed at Okkak, Nain, and Hopedale. In this cold and dreary region, among the poor Esquimaux,[Eskimo] these intrepid soldiers of Jesus Christ, are pursuing their labors with increasing “joy and thankfulness.” One of their reports[See No. 39.] States, that the poor Indians, “were remarkably diligent in their attendance upon Divine worship; and seemed to take great delight in every opportunity afforded them to hear the gospel.” These missionaries had established schools for the instruction of young men, which are represented as in a flourishing state.

This exemplary sect of Christians, the United Brethren, have missionaries established also at Fairfield, in Upper Canada; among the Chippeway Indians, on the Tonquakamick; at Petquotting, on the river of the Hurons; at Goshen, and among the Delaware Indians, on the Wabash;* in Surinam, South America, at Paramaribo, Bombey, and Hoop, on the Corentyn; also, in the Danish West India Islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. Jan. In these islands they have five settlements, in which the number of Negroes in their congregations amounted, in 1807, to 10,557. In 1805, 207 adult negroes were added to these churches by baptism.[See No. 46, of their Periodical Accounts.] To Demerara, Monte Video, Buenos Ayres, and other stations in South America, and in several of the West India Islands, missionaries have been sent from England; and a number also into Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the other British colonies north of the United States. Add to these, the various religious associations in the United States support missionaries among the Cherokee Indians in Tennessee; the Wyandots, at Sandusky, on Lake Erie; the Oneidas, and the remains of the Stockbridge tribe in New York; the Marshpee and Vineyard Indians in Massachusetts, and the Narragansetts, at Charlestown, Rhode Island. And beside these are supported a great number of temporary and stationary missionaries, along the extensive frontier of the United States, and in the destitute parts of their interior settlements.

* This tribe, within a few years, has been visited by a Delegation from the Stockbridge Indians, (who are under the care of Rev. Mr. Sergeant) at the head of which is Captain Hendrick, with a view to introduce among them the Christian religion, and the useful arts. This mission has been patronized, and, in part supported, by The Society for propagating the Gospel among the Indians, &c. A school was to be established here, and a master of the Stockbridge tribe was engaged, and went on with the Delegation, to keep it. See Appendix.

Note E.

Without pretending to a precise knowledge on the subject, we reckon within the limits of the United States, at least thirty Missionary Societies of different descriptions and denominations of Christians; and fifteen Bible Societies; the latter, all instituted within the last three years, and three fourths of them within the last year.

Theological Institutions have been established at New York, (1805,) by the Associate Reformed Church; the stated number of students from about 10 to 15. Also at Andover, in Massachusetts, (1808,) the whole number of students since admitted, between sixty and seventy.* And at New Brunswick, New Jersey,(l 810,) by the Dutch Reformed Church, which is just commencing its operations. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church,

* Four of these, viz. Messrs. Adoniram Judson, Samuel Newell, Samuel Nott, and Samuel J. Mills, have already devoted themselves to missionary labors in foreign countries, and two others are destined to a mission in the interior of Georgia, and arc on their way thither; at their meeting’ in May last, resolved on founding a similar institution somewhere within their bounds, and are collecting the necessary funds for the purpose. Besides these, there are funds to a considerable amount attached to the Colleges at Cambridge and Princeton, and to the Academies at Exeter,(N.H.) and Andover, (Mass.) for the support of theological students.

Institutions of this kind, and particularly for the purpose of educating missionaries, are established at Gosport in England, where in 1807, there were thirteen students; also at Hoxton, England, and at Berlin, in Prussia, wherein 1805, were five students.

Note F.

Among other establishments alluded to, which have in view the benefit of the inhabitants of this benighted quarter of the world, I have pleasure in mentioning, particularly, “the African Institution,” to which the abolition of the slave trade gave rise, and which was formed in London in April, 1807. Its members in point of rank, talents, wealth, and good influence, are among the first characters in England.

The objects of this noble institution, and the means of effecting them, will be best learned, by the following extracts from their Rules and Regulations.

Resolved, 1. That this Meeting is deeply impressed with a sense of the enormous wrongs which the natives of Africa have suffered in their intercourse with Europe; and from a desire to repair those wrongs, as well as from general feelings of benevolence, is anxious to adopt such measures as are best calculated to promote their civilization and happiness.

2. “That the approaching cessation of the Slave Trade hitherto carried on by Great Britain, America, and Denmark, will, in a considerable degree, remove the barrier which has so long obstructed the natural course of social improvement in Africa; and that the way will be thereby opened for introducing the comforts and arts of a more civilized state of society.

3. “That the happiest effects may be reasonably anticipated from diffusing useful knowledge, and exciting industry among the inhabitants of Africa, and from obtaining and circulating throughout this country more ample and authentic information concerning the agricultural and commercial faculties of that vast continent.

4. “That the present period is eminently fitted for prosecuting these benevolent designs; since the suspension, during the. war, of that large share of the Slave Trade, which has commonly been carried on by France, Spain, and Holland, will, when combined with the effect of the Abolition Laws of Great Britain, America, and Denmark, produce nearly the entire cessation of that traffic along a line of coast extending between two and three thousand miles in length, and thereby afford a peculiarly favorable opportunity for giving a new direction to the industry and commerce of Africa.

“To prevent misconception concerning the views and measures of the African Institution, it may be proper in the first instance to declare, that it is the Society’s fixed determination not to undertake any religious mission, and not to engage in commercial speculations. The Society is aware that there already exist several most respectable Institutions formed for the diffusion of Christianity, and means not to encroach on their province. It may also be proper to premise, that it will naturally become the duty and care of the Society, to watch over the execution of the laws, recently enacted in this and other countries, for abolishing the African Slave Trade; to endeavor to prevent the infraction of those laws; and from time to time to suggest any means by which they may be rendered more effectual to their objects; and likewise to endeavor, by communicating information, and by other appropriate methods, to promote the Abolition of the African Slave Trade by Foreign powers.

“The means which it is proposed to employ for the purpose of promoting civilization and improvement in Africa are of the following kind.

1. “To collect and diffuse, throughout this country, accurate information respecting the natural productions of Africa, and, in general, respecting the agricultural and commercial capacities of the African Continent, and the intellectual, moral, and political condition of its inhabitants.

2. “To promote the instruction of the Africans in letters and in useful knowledge, and to cultivate a friendly connection with the natives of that Continent.

3. “To endeavor to enlighten the minds of the Africans with respect to their true interests; and to diffuse information amongst them respecting the means whereby they may improve the present opportunity of substituting a beneficial commerce in place of the Slave Trade.

4. “To introduce amongst them such of the improvements and useful arts of Europe as are suited to their condition.

5. “To promote the cultivation of the African soil, not only by exciting and directing the industry of the natives, but by furnishing, where it may appear advantageous to do so, useful seeds and plants, and implements of husbandry.

6. “To introduce amongst the inhabitants beneficial medical discoveries.

7. “To obtain a knowledge of the principal languages of Africa, and, as has already been found to be practicable, to reduce them to writing, with a view to facilitate the diffusion of information among the natives of that country.

8. “To employ suitable agents and to establish correspondences as shall appear advisable, and to encourage and reward individual enterprise and exertion in promoting any of the purposes of the institution.”

The subscriptions to this institution have been very liberal,”‘ and the prospect of success encouraging. The aid of the United States, through the Secretary of the Association has been solicited in a correspondence with the President of the Society for promoting the Abolition of Slavery in the United States, and with other American gentlemen of respectability. In one of his letters he states the strong reasons, which exist, to induce the American government and the American public, actively to co-operate in accomplishing the plans of this Institution.

“The success,” he says, “of any endeavors for the civilization of Africa, must depend on the degree in which the continuance of the Slave Trade on that coast can be prevented. Much has been done by the legislative enactments of Great Britain and America. Your Congress however, do not seem to have been aware of the subtle evasions, which men, practiced in this trade of blood, would have recourse to, in the prosecution of their nefarious practices. Accordingly, it appears, that American ships, using the Swedish, Spanish, and Portuguese flags, and some even sailing under their own, have appeared in the African seas, for the purpose of procuring slaves, to carry to the colonies of Spain, Portugal, Sec. What is wanted in order to destroy this system is, in the first place, an act of Congress, rendering it highly penal in any American citizen, to be engaged in this trade, either as a capitalist, or as an agent, under any flag, or under any circumstances. But above all, a contract or agreement between Great Britain and America, that the cruisers of both nations shall be empowered indiscriminately, and mutually to enforce their Abolition laws. At present, the American laws prohibiting the foreign Slave Trade, are a dead letter, because they have no cruisers on the coast of Africa, or in the tropical latitudes, to carry them into effect. If once, however, it were understood, that these piratical violators of the laws of their own country, as well as of the dearest rights of humanity, were obnoxious to seizure by British cruisers, and to subsequent condemnation, much more would be done in a few months to remove the grand obstacle, to the improvement of Africa, than could otherwise be effected in a series of years. On this subject the gentlemen above mentioned have been strongly solicited to use their influence to produce a willingness, on the part of the government of the United States, to accede to such an agreement, to which I am persuaded there would be no objection on this side of the water; and from which many happy effects, not only to Africa, but to ourselves also, might be anticipated. The cooperation of the two countries, in one common purpose of benevolence would serve, it might be hoped, to draw more closely the bond of union between them, and would unquestionably strengthen in the minds of all benevolent men, the existing motives for desiring a perfect amity to be perpetuated between them.”

It is hoped that the American government and people are not wanting in a disposition to lend their legislative aid and private influence, to the accomplishment of an object, which, when understood in all its contemplated consequences, cannot fail to excite the warmest approbation, and even admiration, of every humane, upright, and liberal mind.

Governments Corrupted By Vice and Restored By Virtue: by Samuel Langdon 1775

corruption3Samuel Langdon Biography

This eminent man, celebrated alike for his piety and sterling patriotism, was born at Boston, Massachusetts. Through the exertions of his friends, who discovered in him a desire to obtain a liberal education, he was entered at Harvard College, from which institution he graduated with credit in 1740. From college he went to Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, where he was employed to take charge of a grammar school until 1745, at which time he was invited to preach in the First Church, as assistant to Mr. Fitch. Two years after, he was ordained, and from this time until the commencement of the difficulties between England and her colonies, he continued an active laborer for the cause of the church.

Dr. Langdon was a very zealous Whig. His bold and open opposition to the measures of the British government, rendered him highly acceptable to the patriots of New England, and through the influence of John Hancock and others, he was, in 1774, installed as successor of Mr. Locke in the presidency of Harvard College. When he took the chair it gave great delight to the sons of liberty; and in 1775, a month after the commencement of the war, he was chosen to preach the election sermon. This effort will be found in the following pages.

President Langdon’s connection with the college did not prove of the most satisfactory character. His administration was a perpetual struggle with difficulties and embarrassments, amid the dangers of civil war and the excitement of a political revolution. He wanted judgment, and had no spirit of government. He did not receive that respect and kindness from the students and others connected with the college, that were due his character as a scholar and a Christian. Under these circumstances he resigned the presidency, and in 1781, became the pastor of a church at Hampton Falls, near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1788 he preached the election sermon at Concord, and the same year occupied a seat in the New Hampshire Convention, in which body he took an active part, and had an extensive influence in removing the prejudices which prevailed against the Federal Constitution. At the age of seventy-four, on the twenty-ninth of November, 1794, he closed a life well spent, beloved for his piety, hospitality, and good-will to his fellow-men.

Governments Corrupted By Vice and Restored By Virtue:  by Dr. Samuel Langdon 1775; Before the Honorable Congress of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay. Assembled at Watertown, 31st Day of May, 1775. Being the Anniversary fixed by CHARTER for the Election of Counsellors;

References: The patriot preachers of the American Revolution, The Pulpit of the American Revolution, The God of Our Fathers, and The Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution by Frank Moore, John W. Thornton, George Duffield, Jr., and Joel T. Headley  respectfully.

“The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs
in the affairs of men.”—Benjamin Franklin.

Background of the oration:

From one of the sources of information on this topic, “it occurred to us, would be the sermons that had been delivered on other National Fast Days. Many such being just at our hand, we turned them over with no little interest and curiosity. The more we “touched the bones of the prophets,” the more we felt that virtue came out of them.

“Faithful men,” indeed, were those old Fathers, to whom the Gospel in all its relations, both temporal and eternal, might be most safely entrusted! Though a reward was offered for their heads, they preached; though a Tory party in the Church might wish to keep them quiet, still they preached; though their brethren not infrequently found vehement fault with them for so doing, yet, the Word of God “burning like a fire in their bones,” they could not do otherwise than preach. The Chinese idea which so many have been endeavoring to inculcate of late, that “to speak of politics is to be guilty of death,” by such men as Mayhew, Witherspoon, Emmons, &c, would have been laughed to scorn!” Dumb dogs that cannot bark,” could not be said of them, any more than of Calvin, and Knox, and the staunch old English Puritans! Thank God that such men lived on this side of the Atlantic, as well as the other!

There is no excuse for us if we do not try, at least, to imitate their example. If ever the pulpit is to regain that influence which it has lost in our land, it must be by preaching occasionally such sermons as the following Dr. Langdon”

Dr. Samuel Langdon was moderator of the annual convention of the ministers, held, by special invitation of the Provincial Congress, at Watertown, June 1st, following election-day, when he signed the following letter:

“To the Hon. Joseph Warren, Esq., President of the Provincial Congress of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay, etc.

“Sir : — We, the pastors of the Congregational churches of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay, in our present annual convention,”— at Watertown, June 1, 1775, — ” gratefully beg leave to express the sense we have of the regard shown by the Honorable Provincial Congress to us, and the encouragement they have been pleased to afford to our assembling as a body this day. Deeply impressed with sympathy for the distresses of our much-injured and oppressed country, we are not a little relieved in beholding the representatives of this people, chosen by their free and unbiased suffrages, now met to concert measures for their relief and defence, in whose wisdom and integrity, under the smiles of Divine Providence, we cannot but express our entire confidence.

“As it has been found necessary to raise an army for the common safety, and our brave countrymen have so willingly offered themselves to this hazardous service, we are not insensible of the vast burden that their necessary maintenance must”—devolve —”upon the people. We therefore cannot forbear, upon this occasion, to offer our services to the public, and to signify our readiness, with the consent of our several congregations, to officiate, by rotation, as chaplains to the army.

“We devoutly commend the Congress, and our brethren in arms, to the guidance and protection of that Providence which, from the first settlement of this country, has so remarkably appeared for the preservation of its civil and religious rights.

“SAMUEL LANGDON, Moderator.”

Langdon was appointed to deliver the election sermon. By a special vote, Dr. Langdon’s Sermon was sent to each minister in the colony, and to each member of the Congress. The contest (the Revolutionary War) had then begun—blood had flowed at Lexington and Concord, and only three weeks before the battle of Bunker Hill had been fought. Boston was in possession of the British, and the Colonial Congress assembled at Harvard. There was no election of Councillors, but it was the anniversary of the day fixed by charter for the election. The Congress was perplexed and ignorant what course to adopt. His Majesty’s Governor was not there, neither would they elect a Council for His Majesty; and yet Congress had taken no decided steps toward the inauguration of an independent government.

Nevertheless until things assumed more definite shape they would fulfill, as far as they were concerned, the conditions of the Charter. They therefore met on the appointed day, and listened to a sermon from the learned Dr. Langdon.

He took for his text Isaiah, 1. 26: “And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsel as at the beginning. Afterward thou shalt be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.” Nothing could be more appropriate than this text. It shows in what perfect harmony the pulses of the clergy and the people beat. The latter did not now need any instruction as to their rights, or appeals to assert them. They had already asserted them at the point of the bayonet. The die was cast, and every one asked what would the end be. The capital was in the hands of the brutal soldiery, and the patriots were driven from their homes which they might never see again. In such a crisis, in such a state of feeling, how beautiful, how appropriate and encouraging is this full, rich promise.

The Sermon: “Shall we rejoice, my fathers and brethren, or shall we weep together, on the return of this anniversary, which from the first settlement of this colony has been sacred to liberty, to perpetuate that invaluable privilege of choosing, from among ourselves, wise men, fearing God, and hating covetousness, to be honorable counselors, to constitute one essential branch of that happy government which was established on the faith of royal charters?

On this day, the people have from year to year assembled, from all our towns, in a vast congregation, with gladness and festivity, with every ensign of joy displayed in our metropolis, which now, alas I is made a garrison of mercenary troops, the stronghold of despotism. But how shall I now address you from this desk, remote from the capital, and remind you of the important business which distinguished this day in our calendar, without spreading a gloom over this assembly, by exhibiting the melancholy change made in the face of our public affairs?

We have lived to see the time when British liberty is just ready to expire; when that constitution of government which has so long been the glory and strength of the English nation, is deeply undermined and ready to tumble into ruins;—when America is threatened with cruel oppression, and the arm of power is stretched out against New England, and especially against this colony, to compel us to submit to the arbitrary acts of legislators who are not our representatives, and who will not themselves bear the least part of the burdens which, without mercy, they are laying upon us. The most formal and solemn grants of kings to our ancestors are deemed by our oppressors as of little value, and they have mutilated the charter of this colony in the most essential parts, upon false representations, and new invented maxims of policy, without the least regard to any legal process. We are no longer permitted to fix our eyes on the faithful of the land, and trust in the wisdom of their counsels, and the equity of their judgment; but men in whom we can have no confidence, whose principles are subversive of our liberties, whose aim is to exercise lordship over us, and share among themselves the public wealth; men who are ready to serve any master, and execute the most unrighteous decrees for high wages, whoso faces we never saw before, and whose interests and connections may be far divided from us by the wide Atlantic, are to be set over us as counselors and judges, at the pleasure of those who have the riches and power of the nation in their hands, and whose noblest plan is to subjugate the colonies first, and then the whole nation to their will.

corruption4That we might not have it in our power to refuse the most absolute submission to their unlimited claims of authority, they have not only endeavored to terrify us with fleets and armies sent to our capital, and distressed and put an end to our trade, particularly that important branch of it, the fishery(fn1), but at length attempted, by a sudden march of a body of troops in the night, to seize and destroy one of our magazines, formed by the people merely for their own security; if, as after such formidable military preparation on the other side, matters should not be pushed to an extremity. By this, as might well be expected, a skirmish was brought on; and it is most evident, from a variety of concurring circumstances, as well as numerous depositions, both of the prisoners taken by us at that time, and our men then on the spot only as spectators, that the fire began first on the side of the king’s troops. At least five or six of our inhabitants were murderously killed by the regulars at Lexington, before any man attempted to return the fire, and when they were actually complying with the command to disperse; and two more of our brethren were likewise killed at Concord Bridge by a fire from the king’s soldiers, before(fn2) the engagement began on our side. But whatever credit falsehoods transmitted to Great Britain from the other side may gain, the matter may be rested entirely on this—that ho that arms himself to commit a robbery, and demands the traveler’s purse, by the terror of instant death, is the first aggressor, though the other should take the advantage of discharging his pistol first and killing the robber.

The alarm was sudden; but in a very short time spread far and wide; the nearest neighbors in haste ran together to assist their brethren, and save their country. Not more than three or four hundred met in season, and bravely attacked and repulsed the enemies of liberty, who retreated with great precipitation. But by the help of a strong reinforcement, notwithstanding a close pursuit, and continual loss on their side, they acted the part of robbers and savages, by burning(fn3), plundering, and damaging almost every house in their way, to the utmost of their power, murdering the unarmed and helpless, and not regarding the weakness of the tender sex, until they had secured themselves beyond the reach of our terrifying arms. (fn4)

That ever memorable day, the nineteenth of April, is the date of an unhappy war openly begun, by the ministers of the king of Great Britain, against his good subjects in this colony, and implicitly against all the colonies. But for what! Because they have made a noble stand for their natural and constitutional rights, in opposition to the machinations of wicked men, who are betraying their royal master, establishing Popery in the British dominions, and aiming to enslave and ruin the whole nation, that they may enrich themselves and their vile dependents with the public treasures, and the spoils of America.

“We have used our utmost endeavors, by repeated humble petitions and remonstrances—by a series of unanswerable reasonings published from the press, in which the dispute has been fairly stated, and the justice of our opposition clearly demonstrated—and by the mediation of some of the noblest and most faithful friends of the British constitution, who have powerfully pleaded our cause in Parliament—to prevent such measures as may soon reduce the body politic to a miserable, dismembered, dying trunk, though lately the terror of all Europe. But our king, as if impelled by some strange fatality, is resolved to reason with us only by the roar of his cannon, and the pointed arguments of muskets and bayonets. Because we refuse submission to the despotic power of a ministerial Parliament, our own sovereign, to whom we have been always ready to swear true allegiance— whoso authority we never meant to cast off—who might have continued happy in cheerful obedience, as faithful subjects as any in his dominions—has given us up to the rage of his ministers, to be seized at sea by the rapacious commanders of every little sloop of war and piratical cutter, and to be plundered and massacred by land by mercenary troops, who know no distinction betwixt an enemy and a brother, between right and wrong; but only, like brutal pursuers, to hunt and seize the prey pointed out by their masters.

We must keep our eyes fixed on the supreme government of the ETERNAL KING, as directing all events, setting up or pulling down the kings of the earth at his pleasure, suffering the best forms of human government to degenerate and go to ruin by corruption; or restoring the decayed constitutions of kingdoms and states, by reviving public virtue and religion, and granting the favorable inter-positions of his providence. To this our text leads us; and though I hope to be excused on this occasion from a formal discourse on the words in a doctrinal way, yet I must not wholly pass over the religions instruction contained in them.

Let us consider—that for the sins of a people God may suffer the best government to be corrupted, or entirely dissolved; and that nothing but a general reformation can give ground to hope that the public happiness will be restored, by the recovery of the strength and perfection of the state, and that divine Providence will interpose to fill every department with wise and good men.

Isaiah prophesied about the time of the captivity of the ten tribes of Israel, and about a century before the captivity of Judah. The kingdom of Israel was brought to destruction, because its iniquities were full; its counselors and judges were wholly taken away, because there remained no hope of reformation. But the scepter did not entirely depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, till the Messiah came; yet greater and greater changes took place in their political affairs; their government degenerated in proportion as their vices increased, till few faithful men were left in any public offices; and, at length, when they were delivered up for seventy years into the hands of the king of Babylon, scarce any remains of their original excellent civil polity appeared among them.

The Jewish government, according to the original constitution which was divinely established, if considered merely in a civil view, was a perfect republic. The heads of their tribes, and elders of their cities, were their counselors and judges. They called the people together in more general or particular assemblies, took their opinions, gave advice, and managed the public affairs according to the general voice. Counselors and judges comprehend all the powers of that government, for there was no such thing as as legislative authority belonging to it, — their complete code of laws being given immediately from God by the hand of Moses. And let them who cry up the divine right of kings consider that the only form of government which had a proper claim to a divine establishment was so far from including the idea of a king, that it was a high crime for Israel to ask to be in this respect like other nations; and when they were gratified, it was rather as a just punishment of their folly, that they might feel the burdens of court pageantry, of which they were warned by a very striking description, than as a divine recommendation of kingly authority. Every nation, when able and agreed, has a right to set up over themselves any form of government which to them may appear most conducive to their common welfare.(fn5) The civil polity of Israel is doubtless an excellent general model, allowing for some peculiarities; at least, some principal laws and orders of it may be copied to great advantage in more modern establishments.

When a government is in its prime, the public good engages the attention of the whole; the strictest regard is paid to the qualifications of those who hold the offices of the state; virtue prevails; everything is managed with justice, prudence, and frugality; the laws are founded on principles of equity rather than mere policy, and all the people are happy. But vice will increase with the riches and glory of an empire; and this gradually tends to corrupt the constitution, and in time bring on its dissolution. This may be considered not only as the natural effect of vice, but a righteous judgment of Heaven, especially upon a nation which has been favored with the blessings of religion and liberty, and is guilty of undervaluing them, and eagerly going into the gratification of every lust.

In this chapter the prophet describes the very corrupt state of Judah in his day, both as to religion and common morality, and looks forward to that increase of wickedness which would bring on their desolation and captivity. They were “a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that were corrupters, who had forsaken the Lord, and provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger.” The whole body of the nation, from head to foot, was full of moral and political disorders, without any remaining soundness. Their religion was all mere ceremony and hypocrisy ; and even the laws of common justice and humanity were disregarded in their public courts. They had counselors and judges, but very different from those at the beginning of the commonwealth. Their princes were rebellious against God and the constitution of their country, and companions of thieves, — giving countenance to every artifice for seizing the property of the subjects into their own hands, and robbing the public treasury. Every one loved gifts, and followed after rewards ; they regarded the perquisites more than the duties of their office; the general aim was at profitable places and pensions; they were influenced in everything by bribery; and their avarice and luxury were never satisfied, but hurried them on to all kinds of oppression and violence, so that they even justified and encouraged the murder of innocent persons to support their lawless power and increase their wealth. And God, in righteous judgment, left them to run into all this excess of vice, to their own destruction, because they had forsaken him, and were guilty of willful inattention to the most essential parts of that religion which had been given them by a well-attested revelation from heaven.

The Jewish nation could not but see and feel the unhappy consequences of so great corruption of the state. Doubtless they complained much of men in power, and very heartily and liberally reproached them for their notorious misconduct. The public greatly suffered, and the people groaned and wished for better rulers and better management; but in vain they hoped for a change of men and measures and better times when the spirit of religion was gone, and the infection of vice was become universal. The whole body being so corrupted, there could be no rational prospect of any great reformation in the state, but rather of its ruin, which accordingly came on in Jeremiah’s time. Yet if a general reformation of religion and morals had taken place, and they had turned to God from all their sins, — if they had again recovered the true spirit of their religion, — God, by the gracious interpositions of his providence, would soon have found out methods to restore the former virtue of the state, and again have given them men of wisdom and integrity, according to their utmost wish, to be counsellors and judges. This was verified in fact after the nation had been purged by a long captivity, and returned to their own land humbled and filled with zeal for God and his law.

By all this we may be led to consider the true cause of the present remarkable troubles which are come upon Great Britain and these colonies, and the only effectual remedy.

We have rebelled against God. We have lost the true spirit of Christianity, though we retain the outward profession and form of it. We have neglected and set light by the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his holy commands and institutions. The worship of many is but mere compliment to the Deity, while their hearts are far from him. By many the gospel is corrupted into a superficial system of moral philosophy, little better than ancient Platonism; and, after all the pretended refinements of moderns in the theory of Christianity, very little of the pure practice of it is to be found among those who once stood foremost in the profession of the gospel. In a general view of the present moral state of Great Britain it may be said, “There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery,” their wickedness breaks out, and one murder after another is committed, under the connivance and encouragement even of that authority by which such crimes ought to be punished, that the purposes of oppression and despotism may be answered. As they have increased, so have they sinned; therefore God is changing their glory into shame. The general prevalence of vice has changed the whole face of things in the British government.

The excellency of the constitution has been the boast of Great Britain and the envy of neighboring nations. In former times the great departments of the state, and the various places of trust and authority, were filled with men of wisdom, honesty, and religion, who employed all their powers, and were ready to risk their fortunes and their lives, for the public good. They were faithful counselors to kings; directed their authority and majesty to the happiness of the nation, and opposed every step by which despotism endeavored to advance. They were fathers of the people, and sought the welfare and prosperity of the whole body. They did not exhaust the national wealth by luxury and bribery, or convert it to their own private benefit or the maintenance of idle, useless officers and dependents, but improved it faithfully for the proper purposes — for the necessary support of government and defence of the kingdom. Their laws were dictated by wisdom and equality, and justice was administered with impartiality. Religion discovered its general influence among all ranks, and kept out great corruptions from places of power.

But in what does the British nation now glory? — In a mere shadow of its ancient political system, — in titles of dignity without virtue, — in vast public treasures continually lavished in corruption till every fund is exhausted, notwithstanding the mighty streams perpetually flowing in,— in the many artifices to stretch the prerogatives of the crown beyond all constitutional bounds, and make the king an absolute monarch, while the people are deluded with a mere phantom of liberty. What idea must we entertain of that great government, if such a one can be found, which pretends to have made an exact counterbalance of power between the sovereign, the nobles and the commons, so that the three branches shall be an effectual check upon each other, and the united wisdom of the whole shall conspire to promote the national felicity, but which, in reality, is reduced to such a situation that it may be managed at the sole will of one court favorite? What difference is there betwixt one(fn6) man’s choosing, at his own pleasure, by his single vote, the majority of those who are to represent the people, and his purchasing in such a majority, according to his own nomination, with money out of the public treasury, or other effectual methods of influencing elections? And what shall we say if, in the same manner, by places, pensions, and other bribes, a minister of the crown can at any time gain over a nobler majority likewise to be entirely subservient to his purposes, and, moreover, persuade his royal master to resign himself up wholly to the direction of his counsels? If this should be the case of any nation, from one seven years’ end to another, the bargain and sale being made sure for such a period, would they still have reason to boast of their excellent constitution?(fn7) Ought they not rather to think it high time to restore the corrupted, dying state to its original perfection? I will apply this to the Roman senate under Julius Caesar, which retained all its ancient formalities, but voted always only as Caesar dictated. If the decrees of such a senate were urged on the Romans, as fraught with all the blessings of Roman liberty, we must suppose them strangely deluded if they were persuaded to believe it.

corruption2The pretense for taxing America has been that the nation contracted an immense debt for the defence of the American colonies, and that, as they are now able to contribute some proportion towards the discharge of this debt, and must be considered as part of the nation, it is reasonable they should be taxed, and the Parliament has a right to tax and govern them, in all cases whatever, by its own supreme authority. Enough has been already published on this grand controversy, which now threatens a final separation of the colonies from Great Britain. But can the amazing national debt be paid by a little trifling sum, squeezed from year to year out of America, which is continually drained of all its cash by a restricted trade with the parent country, and which in this way is taxed to the government of Britain in a very large proportion? Would it not be much superior wisdom, and sounder policy, for a distressed kingdom to retrench the vast unnecessary expenses continually incurred by its enormous vices; to stop the prodigious sums paid in pensions, and to numberless officers, without the least advantage to the public; to reduce the number of devouring servants in the great family; to turn their minds from the pursuit of pleasure and the boundless luxuries of life to the important interests of their country and the salvation of the commonwealth? Would not a reverend regard to the authority of divine revelation, a hearty belief of the, gospel of the grace of God, and a general reformation of all those vices which bring misery and ruin upon individuals, families, and kingdoms, and which have provoked Heaven to bring the nation into such perplexed and dangerous circumstances, be the surest way to recover the sinking state, and make it again rich and flourishing? Millions might annually be saved if the kingdom were generally and thoroughly reformed; and the public debt, great as it is, might in a few years be cancelled by a growing revenue, which now amounts to full ten millions per annum, without laying additional burdens on any of the subjects. But the demands of corruption are constantly increasing, and will forever exceed all the resources of wealth which the wit of man can invent or tyranny impose.

Into what fatal policy has the nation been impelled, by its public vices, to wage a cruel war with its own children in these colonies, only to gratify the lust of power and the demands of extravagance! May God, in his great mercy, recover Great Britain from this fatal infatuation, show them their errors, and give them a spirit of reformation, before it is too late to avert impending destruction! May the eyes of the king be opened to see the ruinous tendency of the measures into which he has been led, and his heart inclined to treat his American subjects with justice and clemency, instead of forcing them still further to the last extremities! God grant some method may be found out to effect a happy reconciliation, so that the colonies may again enjoy the protection of their sovereign, with perfect security of all their natural rights and civil and religious liberties.

But, alas! have not the sins of America, and of New England in particular, had a hand in bringing down upon us the righteous judgments of Heaven? Wherefore is all this evil come upon us? Is it not because we have forsaken the Lord? Can we say we are innocent of crimes against God? No, surely. It becomes us to humble ourselves under his mighty hand, that he may exalt us in due time. However unjustly and cruelly we have been treated by man, we certainly deserve, at the hand of God, all the calamities in which we are now involved. Have we not lost much of that spirit of genuine Christianity which so remarkably appeared in our ancestors, for which God distinguished them with the signal favors of providence when they fled from tyranny and persecution into this western desert? Have we not departed from their virtues? Though I hope and am confident that as much true religion, agreeable to the purity and simplicity of the gospel, remains among us as among any people in the world, yet, in the midst of the present great apostasy of the nations professing Christianity, have not we likewise been guilty of departing from the living God? Have we not made light of the gospel of salvation, and too much affected the cold, formal, fashionable religion of countries grown old in vice, and overspread with infidelity? Do not our follies and iniquities testify against us? Have we not, especially in our seaports, gone much too far into the pride and luxuries of life? Is it not a fact, open to common observation, that profaneness, intemperance, unchastity, the love of pleasure, fraud, avarice, and other vices, are increasing among us from year to year? And have not even these young governments been in some measure infected with the corruptions of European courts? Has there been no flattery, no bribery, no artifices practiced, to get into places of honor and profit, or carry a vote to serve a particular interest, without regard to right or wrong? Have our statesmen always acted with integrity, and every judge with impartiality, in the fear of God? In short, have all ranks of men showed regard to the divine commands, and joined to promote the Redeemer’s kingdom and the public welfare? I wish we could more fully justify ourselves in all these respects. If such sins have not been so notorious, among us as in older countries, we must nevertheless remember that the sins of a people who have been remarkable for the profession of godliness, are more aggravated by all the advantages and favors they have enjoyed, and will receive more speedy and signal punishment; as God says of Israel: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2)

The judgments now come upon us are very heavy and distressing, and have fallen with peculiar weight on our capital, where, notwithstanding the plighted honor of the chief commander of the hostile troops, many of our brethren are still detained, as if they were captives;(fn8) and those that have been released have left the principal part of their substance, which is withheld, by arbitrary orders, contrary to an express treaty, to be plundered by the army.(fn9)

Let me address you in the words of the prophet: “O Israel! return unto the Lord thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” My brethren, let us repent, and implore the divine mercy; let us amend our ways and our doings, reform everything which has been provoking to the Most High, and thus endeavor to obtain the gracious interpositions of Providence for our deliverance.

If true religion is revived by means of these public calamities, and again prevails among us, — if it appears in our religious assemblies, in the conduct of our civil affairs, in our armies, in our families, in all our business and conversation, — we may hope for the direction and blessing of the Most High, while we are using our best endeavors to preserve and restore the civil government of this colony, and defend America from slavery.

Our late happy government is changed into the terrors of military execution. Our firm opposition to the establishment of an arbitrary system is called rebellion, and we are to expect no mercy, but to yield property and life at discretion. This we are resolved at all events not to do, and therefore we have taken up arms in our own defence, and all the colonies are united in the great cause of liberty.

But how shall we live while civil government is dissolved? What shall we do without counselors and judges? A state of absolute anarchy is dreadful. Submission to the tyranny of hundreds of imperious masters, firmly embodied against us, and united in the same cruel design of disposing of our lives and subsistence at their pleasure, and making their own will our law in all cases whatsoever, is the vilest slavery, and worse than death.

Thanks be to God that he has given us, as men, natural rights, independent on all human laws whatever, and that these rights are recognized by the grand charter of British liberties. By the law of nature, any body of people, destitute of order and government, may form themselves into a civil society, according to their best prudence, and so provide for their common safety and advantage. When one form is found by the majority not to answer the grand purpose in any tolerable degree, they may, by common consent, put an end to it and set up another, — only, as all such great changes are attended with difficulty and danger of confusion, they ought not to be attempted without urgent necessity, which will be determined always by the general voice of the wisest and best members of the community.

Corruption1If the great servants of the public forget their duty, betray their trust, and sell their country, or make war against the most valuable rights and privileges of the people, reason and justice require that they should be discarded, and others appointed in their room, without any regard to formal resignations of their forfeited power.

It must be ascribed to some supernatural influence on the minds of the main body of the people through this extensive continent, that they have so universally adopted the method of managing the important matters necessary to preserve among them a free government by corresponding committees and congresses, consisting of the wisest and most disinterested patriots in America, chosen by the unbiased suffrages of the people assembled for that purpose in their several towns, counties, and provinces. So general agreement, through so many provinces of so large a country, in one mode of self-preservation, is unexampled in any history; and the effect has exceeded our most sanguine expectations. Universal tumults, and all the irregularities and violence of mobbish factions, naturally arise when legal authority ceases. But how little of this has appeared in the midst of the late obstructions of civil government! — nothing more than what has often happened in Great Britain and Ireland, in the face of the civil powers in all their strength; nothing more than what is frequently seen in the midst of the perfect regulations of the great city of London; and, may I not add, nothing more than has been absolutely necessary to carry into execution the spirited resolutions of a people too sensible to deliver themselves up to oppression and slavery. The judgment and advice of the continental assembly of delegates have been as readily obeyed as if they were authentic acts of a long-established Parliament. And in every colony the votes of a congress have had equal effect with the laws of great and general courts.

It is now ten months since(fn10) this colony has been deprived of the benefit of that government which was so long enjoyed by charter. They have had no General Assembly formatters of legislation and the public revenue; the courts of justice have been shut up,(fn11) and almost the whole executive power has ceased to act; yet order among the people has been remarkably preserved. Few crimes have been committed, punishable by the judge; even former contentions betwixt one neighbor and another have ceased; nor have fraud and rapine taken advantage of the imbecility of the civil powers.

The necessary preparations for the defence of our liberties required not only the collected wisdom and strength of the colony, but an immediate, cheerful application of the wealth of individuals to the public service, in due proportion, or a taxation which depended on general consent. Where was the authority to vote, collect, or receive the large sums required, and make provision for the utmost extremities? A Congress succeeded to the honors of a General Assembly as soon as the latter was crushed by the hand of power. It gained all the confidence of the people. Wisdom and prudence secured all that the laws of the former constitution could have given; and we now observe with astonishment an army of many thousands of well-disciplined troops suddenly assembled, and abundantly furnished with all necessary supplies, in defence of the liberties of America.

But is it proper or safe for the colony to continue much longer in such imperfect order? Must it not appear rational and necessary, to every man that understands the various movements requisite to good government, that the many parts should be properly settled, and every branch of the legislative and executive authority restored to that order and vigor on which the life and health of the body politic depend? To the honorable gentlemen now met in this new congress as the fathers of the people, this weighty matter must be referred. Who knows but in the midst of all the distresses of the present war to defeat the attempts of arbitrary power, God may in mercy restore to us our judges as at the first, and our counselors as at the beginning?

On your wisdom, religion, and public spirit, honored gentlemen, we depend, to determine what may be done as to the important matter of reviving the form of government, and settling all necessary affairs relating to it in the present critical state of things, that we may again have law and justice, and avoid the danger of anarchy and confusion. May God be with you, and by the influences of his Spirit direct all your counsels and resolutions for the glory of his name and the safety and happiness of this colony. We have great reason to acknowledge with thankfulness the evident tokens of the Divine presence with the former congress, that they were led to foresee present exigencies, and make such effectual provision for them. It is our earnest prayer to the Father of Lights that he would irradiate your minds, make all your way plain, and grant you may be happy instruments of many and great blessings to the people by whom you are constituted, to New England, and all the united colonies. Let us praise our God(fn12) for the advantages already given us over the enemies of liberty, particularly that they have been so dispirited by repeated experience of the efficacy of our arms; and that, in the late action at Chelsea, when several hundreds of our soldiery, the greater part open to the fire of so many cannon, swivels, and muskets, from a battery advantageously situated,—from two armed cutters, and many barges full of marines, and from ships of the line in the harbor, — not one man on our side was killed, and but two or three wounded; when, by the best intelligence, a great number were killed and wounded on the other side, and one of their cutters was taken and burnt, the other narrowly escaping with great damage.(fn13)

If God be for us, who can be against us? The enemy has reproached us for calling on his name, and professing our trust in him. They have made a mock of our solemn fasts, and every appearance of serious Christianity in the land. On this account, by way of contempt, they call us saints; and that they themselves may keep at the greatest distance from this character, their mouths are full of horrid blasphemies, cursing, and bitterness, and vent all the rage of malice and barbarity. And may we not be confident that the Most High, who regards these things, will vindicate his own honor, and plead our righteous cause against such enemies to his government, as well as our liberties? O, may our camp be free from every accursed thing! May our land be purged from all its sins! May we be truly a holy people, and all our towns cities of righteousness!

Then the Lord will be our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, and we shall have no reason to be afraid though thousands of enemies set themselves against us round about, — though all nature should be thrown into tumults and convulsions. He can command the stars in their courses to fight his battles, and all the elements to wage war with his enemies. He can destroy them with innumerable plagues, or send faintness into their hearts, so that the men of might shall not find their hands. In a variety of methods he can work salvation for us, as he did for his people in-ancient days, and according to the many remarkable deliverances granted in former times to Great Britain and New England when popish machinations threatened both countries with civil and ecclesiastical tyranny.(fn15)

May the Lord hear us in this day of trouble, and the name of the God of Jacob defend us, send us help from his sanctuary, and strengthen us out of Zion! We will rejoice in his salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. Let us look to him to fulfill all our petitions.”

About Samuel Langdon

This eminent man, celebrated alike for his piety and sterling patriotism, was born at Boston, Massachusetts. Through the exertions of his friends, who discovered in him a desire to obtain a liberal education, he was entered at Harvard College, from which institution he graduated with credit in 1740 (The same year in which Samuel Adams graduated). From college he went to Portsmouth, in Now Hampshire, where he was employed to take charge of a grammar school until 1745, at which time he was invited to preach in the First Church, as assistant to Mr. Fitch. Two years after, he was ordained, and from this time until the commencement of the difficulties between England and her colonies, he continued an active laborer for the cause of the church.

Dr. Langdon was a very zealous Whig. His bold and open opposition to the measures of the British government, rendered him highly acceptable to the patriots of New England, and through the influence of John Hancock and others, he was, in 1774, installed as successor of Mr. Locke in the presidency of Harvard College. When he took the chair it gave great delight to the sons of liberty; and in 1775, a month after the commencement of the war, he was chosen to preach the election sermon, as seen above. After an able administration, in a period of peculiar embarrassment, he resigned the presidency of the college.

President Langdon’s connection with the college did not prove of the most satisfactory character. His administration was a perpetual struggle with difficulties and embarrassments, amid the dangers of civil war and the excitement of a political revolution. He wanted judgment, and had no spirit of government. He did not receive that respect and kindness from the students and others connected with the college, that were due his character as a scholar and a Christian. Under these circumstances he resigned the presidency, and in 1781, became the pastor of a church at Hampton Falls, near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1788 he preached the election sermon at Concord, and the same year occupied a seat in the New Hampshire Convention, in which body he took an active part, and had an extensive influence in removing the prejudices which prevailed against the Federal Constitution, and was prominent in securing the adoption of it. At the age of seventy-four, on the twenty-ninth of November, 1794, he closed a life well spent, beloved for his piety, hospitality, and good-will to his fellow-men, revered for his private and public life.

Footnotes:

(fn1) Mr. Sabine’s learned “Report on the Principal Fisheries of the American Seas,” 1833, is an invaluable contribution to American history. It is essential to a correct knowledge of American colonization, and of much of our subsequent history.

(fn2) Mr. Frothingham presents the results of an able and conscientious study of these events in his ” History of the Siege of Boston,” — ” The best of our historic monographs.”— Bancroft in Allibone. See also Mr. Henry B.Dawson’s elaborate pages in “The Battles of the United States.”

(fn3) Rev. Isaac Mansfield, Jr., chaplain to General Thomas’s regiment, in his Thanksgiving Sermon ” in the camp at Roxbury, November 23, 1775,” says of the event of April 19th: “What but the hand of Providence preserved the school of the prophets from their ravage, who would have deprived us of many advantages for moral or religious improvement?” To this he adds the note following: ” General Gage, as governor of this province, issued his precepts for convening a General Assembly at Boston, designing to enforce a compliance with Lord North’s designing motion; they were to be kept as prisoners in garrison, till, under the mouth of cannon and at the point of the bayonet, they should be reduced to a mean and servile submission. To facilitate this matter, he was to send out a party to take possession of a magazine at Concord. Presuming that this might be done without opposition, the said party, upon their return from Concord, were to lay waste till they should arrive at Cambridge common; there, after destroying the colleges”— seminaries of sedition — ” and other buildings, they were to throw up an entrenchment upon the said common, their number was to be increased from the garrison, and the next morning a part of the artillery to be removed and planted in the entrenchment aforesaid. This astonishing manoeuvre, it was supposed, would so effectually intimidate the constituents, that the General Assembly, by the compliance designed, would literally represent their constituents.’ The author is not at liberty to publish the channel through which he received the foregoing, but begs to assure the reader that it came so direct that he cannot hesitate in giving credit to it. He recollects one circumstance which renders it highly probable: Lord Percy (on April 19), suspicious his progress to Concord might be retarded by the plank of the bridge at Cambridge being taken away, brought out from Boston several loads of plank, with a number of carpenters; not finding occasion to use them, he carried them on his way to Concord, perhaps about a mile and a half from the bridge; about an hour after the plank were returned. If he had intended to repass that river at night, he must have reserved the plank; if he designed to stop in Cambridge, the plank must be an encumbrance. This conduct, in returning the plank, may be accounted for upon supposition of the foregoing plan of operation.”

(fn4) Near the meeting-house in Menotomy (now West Cambridge) two aged helpless men, who had not been out in the action, and were found unarmed in a house where the regulars entered, were murdered without mercy. In another house in that neighborhood, a woman in bed with a new-born infant—about a week old—was forced by the threats of the soldiery to escape almost naked to an open outhouse; her house was then set on fire, but was soon extinguished by one of the children which had lain concealed till the enemy was gone. In Cambridge a man of weak mental powers, who went out to gaze at the regular army as they passed, without arms, or thought of danger, was wantonly shot at, and killed by those inhuman butchers, as he sat on a fence.

(fn5) “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; …. it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”—Dec. of Ind., July 4th, 1776.

(fn6) Mr. Burke, in his “Thoughts on the Present Discontents,” 1770, said: “The power of the crown, almost rotten and dead as prerogative, has grown up anew, with much more strength, and far less odium, under the name of influence,” intrigue, and favoritism; and a few years later he refers to the “not disavowed use which has been made of his Majesty’s name for the purpose of the most unconstitutional, corrupt, and dishonorable influence on the minds of the members of this Parliament that ever was practiced in this kingdom. No attention even to exterior decorum,” etc.

(fn7) This contemporary observation of the English government of that period shows the watchful eye of the colonists on the administration; and by it we can better appreciate their masterly conduct of public affairs, and their superiority over the British statesmen. England knew not her colonists, but she was known of them.

(fn8) One apology for this bad faith was, that if only Tory interests remained in Boston the patriots would fire the town. It occasioned extreme anxiety and suffering. — Frothingham, 93-90

(fn9) Soon alter the battle at Concord, General Gage stipulated, with the selectmen of Boston, that if the inhabitants would deliver up their arms, to be deposited in Fanuell Hall, and returned when circumstances would permit, they should have liberty to quit the town, and take with them their effects. They readily complied, but soon found themselves abused. With great difficulty, and very slowly, they obtain passes, but are forbidden to carry out anything besides household furniture and wearing apparel. Merchants and shopkeepers are obliged to leave behind all their merchandise, and even their cash is detained. Mechanics are not allowed to bring out the most necessary tools for their work. Not only their family stores of provisions are stopped, but it has been repeatedly and credibly affirmed that poor women and children have had the very smallest articles of this kind taken from them, which were necessary for their refreshment while they traveled a few miles to their friends; and that even from young children, in their mothers’ arms, the cruel soldiery have taken the morsel of bread given to prevent their crying, and thrown it away. How much better for the inhabitants to have resolved, at all hazards, to defend themselves by their arms against such an enemy, than suffer such shameful abuse!

(fn10) Since July 17, 1771, when the General Court at Salem closed the door against the secretary sent by Governor Gage to dissolve the Assembly, chose Thomas Gushing, Samuel Adams, Robert Treat Paine, James Bowdoin, and John Adams, delegates to a congress of the colonies, passed resolves, and separated. — Ed.

(fn11) The power of public opinion in preserving order and safety during the period from the time when the king’s courts and magistrates — all legal authority — ceased to act, till the accession of constitutional authority,— a phenomenon which excited the admiration of the world, — is finely illustrated in Mr. Freeman’s account of the proceedings in Barnstable county, “on the first Tuesday of September,” 1774. As there might be appeals from the Court of Common Pleas to the Superior Court, the Chief Justice of which, Hutchinson, had accepted a salary from the crown, the people suppressed the sessions of that court throughout the province, except in Boston, where they were not in power. Fifteen hundred of the people of Barnstable, Plymouth, and Bristol counties, thoroughly organized, met in front of the court-house, at Barnstable, and, through their conductor-in-chief, Dr. Nathaniel Freeman, of Sandwich, addressed Colonel Otis, the venerable Chief Justice: . . . “Our safety, all that is dear to us, and the welfare of unborn millions, have directed this movement to prevent the court from being opened or doing any business. We have taken all the consequences into consideration; we have weighed them well, and have formed this resolution, which we shall not rescind.” The Chief Justice then calmly but firmly replied: “This is a legal and a constitutional court; it has suffered no mutations; the juries have been drawn from the boxes as the law directs; and why would you interrupt its proceedings?—why do you make a leap before you get to the hedge?” Dr. Freeman responded: “All this has been considered. We do not appear out of any disrespect to this honorable court, nor do we apprehend that if you proceed to business you will do anything that we could censure. But, sir, from all the decisions of this court, of more than forty shillings’ amount, an appeal lies; an appeal to what? — to a court holding office during the king’s pleasure, —a court over which we have no control or influence, — a court paid out of the revenue that is extorted from us by the illegal and unconstitutional edict of foreign despotism, —and there the jury will be appointed by the sheriff. For this reason we have adopted this method of stopping the avenue through which business may otherwise pass to that tribunal, — well knowing that if they have no business they can do us no harm.” The Chief Justice then said: “As is my duty, I now, in his Majesty’s name, order you immediately to disperse, and give the court the opportunity to perform the business of the county.” Dr. Freeman replied: “We thank your Honor for having done TotK duty: We Shall Continue To Perform Ours.” The court then turned and repaired to the house where they had put up. This was supposed to be the first overt act of Treason, done deliberately, in the face of day. The solemnity and sense of right which governed the people, and which was a characteristic of the revolutionary period, was grandly exhibited in their code of regulations adopted on this occasion. We give their own words:

“Whereas a strict adherence to virtue and religion is not only well pleasing in the sight of Almighty God, and highly commendable before men, but hath a natural tendency to good order, and to lead mankind in the paths of light and truth:

“Therefore, Resolved, That we will . . . avoid all kinds of intemperance by strong liquors, and no otherwise frequent the taverns than for necessary entertainment and refreshment; that we will not swear profanely, or abuse our superiors, equals, or inferiors, by any ill or opprobrious language; that we will not invade the property of any, or take of their goods or estate without their leave or consent; that we will not offer violence to any persons, or use any threatening words, otherwise than such as shall be approved of and accounted necessary by our community for the accomplishing the errand we go upon; and that we will carefully observe an orderly, circumspect, and civil behavior, as well towards strangers and all others as towards those of our own fellowship.

“Resolved, That Messrs. Aaron Barlow, Nathaniel Briggs, James Foster, Joseph Haskell, 3d, John Doty, Judah Sears, Jr., Stephen Wing, and John Pitcher, be a committee to hear and determine all offenses against morality, decency, and good manners, that shall be complained of, . . . with power to call before them, examine, acquit, or punish, according to the nature and circumstances of the offence

“Resolved, That we will, during the time of our said enterprise, aid, protect, and support our said committee in the full and free discharge of their duty and office, and use our most careful endeavors for the punishment of all offenders.

“And, forasmuch as these our public transactions are of a public nature, and, as we apprehend, laudable; and as we have no private interest to serve, or anything in view but the good of our country and its common cause:

“Therefore, Voted, That these resolves be read once every day, at some convenient time and place, during our transitory state and temporary fellowship, — so that our righteousness may plead our cause, and bear a public testimony that we are neither friends to mobs, or riots, or any other wickedness or abomination.

“And, lastly, we Resolve, That we will yield all due respect and obedience to those persons whom we shall choose and appoint for our officers and leaders,” etc.— ” History of Cape Cod,” by Rev. Frederick Freeman, Boston, 1860; a work of great value and interest, of which chapters xix. xx. are additional to previous materials, and supply a passage in the moral history of the people the most difficult to be preserved.

Mr. Burke, in March, 1775, reflecting on this singular spectacle of a people remaining in perfect order without a public council, judges, or executive magistrates, said: “Obedience is what makes government, and not the names by which it is called; not the name of governor, as formerly, or committee, as at present.”

(fn12) Governor Gage, in his proclamation of June 12,1775, a few days after Dr. Langdon’s sermon was preached, said: “To complete the horrid profanation of terms and of ideas, the name of God has been introduced in the pulpits to excite and justify devastation and massacre.”

(fn13) This action was in the night following the twenty-seventh current, after our soldiery had been taking off the cattle from some islands in Boston harbor. By the best information we have been able to procure, about one hundred and five of the king’s troops were killed, and one hundred and sixty wounded, in the engagement.(fn14)

(fn14) Frothinghatn, pp. 109, 110, says this was magnified into a battle, and dwelt upon with great exultation throughout the colonies. The loss of the enemy was probably exaggerated. — Gordon, Letter xiv.

Mr. Mansfield, in his Thanksgiving Sermon at Roxbury, November 23, 1775, said: “Providence has likewise smiled upon the camp, in permitting so few fatal accidents, and evidently been its safeguard.” He says: “I am informed that by means of upwards two thousand balls that have been thrown from the opposite lines, five men only have been taken off.

(fn15) When we consider the late Canada Bill, which implies not merely a toleration of the Roman Catholic religion (which would be just and liberal), but a Arm establishment of it through that extensive province, now greatly enlarged to serve political purposes, by which means multitudes of people, subjects of Great Britain, which may hereafter settle that vast country, will be tempted, by all the attachments arising from an establishment, to profess that religion, or be discouraged from any endeavors to propagate reformed principles, have we not great reason to suspect that all the late measures respecting the colonies have originated from popish schemes of men who would gladly restore the race of Stuart, and who look on Popery as a religion most favorable to arbitrary power? It is a plain fact that despotism has an establishment in that province equally with the Roman Catholic Church. The governor, with a council very much under his power, has by his commission almost unlimited authority, free from the clog of representatives of the people. However agreeable this may be to the genius of the French, English subjects there will be discouraged from continuing in a country where both they and their posterity will be deprived of the greatest privileges of the British constitution, and in many respects feel the effects of absolute monarchy.

Lord Littleton, in his defence of this detestable statute, frankly concedes that it is an establishment of the Roman Catholic religion, and that part of the policy of it was to provide a check upon the New England colonies. And the writer of an address of the people of Great Britain to the inhabitants of America, just published, expresses himself with great precision when he says ” that statute gave toleration to English subjects.”

I perceive likewise that by means of about three hundred balls, etc., thrown into this place”— Roxbury — “in the course of one month, viz., from September 3 to October 3, but two were wounded (one but slightly; the other died, after some time, of his wound), and no man was immediately killed. It is to be remarked further, that not one person was hurt, in the course of above three hundred shells being thrown to a fortress erected upon Ploughed Hill,” in Charlestown.