REVIEW OF CUSTANCE ON THE CONSTITUTION

The Magna Carta (Click to enlarge)

The Magna Carta (Click to enlarge)

Sharing this article by Rev. Robert Hall mainly for the quote in the first paragraph.

REVIEW OF CUSTANCE ON THE CONSTITUTION

 

A Concise View of the Constitution of England. By George Custance. Dedicated, by permission, to William Wilberforce, Esq., M.P.for the County of York. Kidderminster: Gower; London: Longman and Co.; Hatchard. 1808.

It were surely to be wished that every man had a competent acquaintance with the laws and constitution of the country to which he belongs. Patriotism is a blind and irrational impulse, unless it is founded on a knowledge of the blessings we are called to secure, and the privileges we propose to defend. In a tyrannical state it is natural for the ruling power to cherish political ignorance, which can alone reconcile men to the tame surrender of their natural rights. The diffusion of light and knowledge is very unfavourable to ill-founded pretensions of every sort, but to none more than the encroachments of arbitrary power and lawless violence. The more we explore the recesses of a dungeon, the less likely are we to be reconciled to take up our residence in it. But the venerable fabric of the British constitution, our hereditary mansion, whether it be tried by the criterion of convenience or of beauty, of ancient prescription or of practical utility, will bear the most rigid examination; and the more it is contemplated will be the more admired.

The Romans were so conscious of the importance of imparting to the rising generation an early knowledge of their laws and constitution, that the contents of the twelve tables were committed to memory, and formed one of the first elements of public instruction. They were sensible that what lays hold of the mind at so early a period is not only likely to be long remembered, but is almost sure to command veneration and respect. We are not aware that similar attempts have been made to render the British youth acquainted with the principles of our admirable constitution, not inferior surely to that of the Roman republic; a defect in the system of education which the circumstances of the present crisis loudly call upon us to supply. When our existence as an independent nation is threatened, when unexampled sacrifices must be made, and, perhaps, the utmost efforts of patience and of persevering courage exerted for our preservation, an attachment to that constitution which is the basis of all our prosperity, cannot be too zealously promoted or too deeply felt. It is a just and enlightened estimate of the invaluable blessings that constitution secures, which alone can make us sustain our present burdens without repining, as well as prepare us for greater privations and severer struggles. For this reason we cannot but look upon the performance before us as a most seasonable publication. One cause of the attention of youth being so little directed to our national laws and constitution, in schools, is probably the want of suitable books. We have an abundance of learned and able writers on these subjects; but few, if any, that are quite adapted to the purpose we are now speaking of. Millar’s is a very profound and original work; but it supposes a great deal of previous knowledge, without which it can be scarcely understood, and is in every view better adapted to aid the researches of an antiquary, or the speculations of a philosopher, than to answer the end of an elementary treatise. De Lolme’s performance may be deemed more suitable; yet, able and ingenious as it is, it labours under some essential deficiencies, considered in the light of an elementary work. There is in it a spirit of refined speculation, an eagerness to detect and display latent, unthought-of excellences, in the frame of government, which is very remote from the simplicity requisite in the lessons of youth. Of Blackstone’s Commentaries it would be presumptuous in us to attempt an eulogium, after Sir William Jones has pronounced it to be the most beautiful outline that was ever given of any science. Nothing can exceed the luminous arrangement, the vast comprehension, and, we may venture to add from the best authorities, the legal accuracy of this wonderful performance, which, in style and composition, is distinguished by an unaffected grace, a majestic simplicity, which can only be eclipsed by the splendour of its higher qualities. Admirable, however, as these commentaries are, it is obvious that they are much too voluminous and elaborate to answer the purpose of an introduction to the study of the English constitution. We do, therefore, most sincerely congratulate the public on the appearance of a work which we can safely recommend as ‘well fitted to supply a chasm in our system of public instruction. The book before us is, in ever}’ view, well adapted for the instruction of youth: the clear and accurate information h conveys upon a most important subject, and the truly Christian tincture of its maxims and principles, are well calculated to enlarge the understanding and improve the heart. We beg leave particularly to recommend it to the attention of schools, in which, we conceive, a general acquaintance with the laws and constitution of the country might be cultivated with much advantage, as forming a proper preparation for the active scenes of life. Legal provisions for the security of the best temporal interests of mankind are the result of so much collective wisdom and experience, and are so continually conversant with human affairs, that we know no study more adapted to invigorate the understanding, and at the same time to give a practical turn to its speculations. The close cohesion of its parts tends to make the mind severely argumentative, while its continual relation to the state of society and its successive revolutions fences it in on the side of metaphysical abstraction and useless theories. What we look upon (for the reasons already mentioned) to be a most useful and interesting study at all times, we would earnestly recommend as an indispensable duty at the present crisis.

Of the merits of the work before us, the public may form some judgment, when we inform them that it contains whatever is most interesting to the general reader in Blackstone, together with much useful information derived from Professor Christian, De Lolme, and various other eminent authors. Some will be ready to accuse the writer of having carried his partiality toward whatever is established too far; nor dare we say the charge is entirely unfounded. We are not disposed, however, to be severe upon him on this account. We wish to see the minds of our youth preoccupied with a strong bias in favour of our national institutions. We would wish to see them animated by a warm and generous enthusiasm, and to defer the business of detecting faults and exposing imperfections to a future period. Let us only be allowed to remark, that this policy should be temperately employed; lest the mind should suffer a revulsion, and pass, perhaps abruptly, from implicit admiration to the lest, indignant at having been misled, it censure for undistinguishing applause.

We wish our author had, in common with Blackstone, expressed his disapprobation of the severity of our criminal code. The multiplicity of capital punishments we shall always consider as a reproach to the English nation; though, numerous as they are, they bear no proportion to what they ‘would be were the law permitted to take its course. The offences deemed capital by the common law are few; the sanguinary complexion of the criminal law, as it now stands, has arisen from the injudicious tampering of the legislature. To us it appears evident, that the certainty of punishment will restrain offenders more than its severity.; and that, when men are tempted to transgress, they do not weigh the emolument they had in view against the penalty awarded by law, but simply the probability of detection and punishment against that of impunity. Let the punishments be moderate, and this will be the most effectual means of rendering them certain. While nothing can exceed the trial by jury, and the dignified impartiality with which justice is administered, we are compelled to look upon the criminal code with very different emotions, and earnestly to wish it were carefully revised, and made more humane, simple, and precise.

As little can we concur with the author before us in the defence he sets up of the donation of pensions and where there are no pretensions of personal merit or honorable services. Standing quite aloof from party politic must affirm, that to whatever extent such a practice exactly in the same proportion is it a source of public calamity and disgrace. To look at it, as our author does, only in a pecuniary view, is to neglect the principal consideration. It is not merely or chiefly as a waste of public money that the granting of sinecures and pensions to the undeserving ought to be condemned; the venality and corruption it indicates and produces is its worst feature, and an infallible symptom of a declining state. With these exceptions, we have accompanied the author with almost uninterrupted pleasure, and have been highly gratified with the good sense, the extensive information, and the unaffected piety he displays throughout the work. Though a firm and steady churchman himself, be manifests a truly Christian spirit toward the Protestant dissenters; and is so far from looking with an evil eye on the large toleration they enjoy, that he contemplates with evident satisfaction the laws on which that toleration is founded.

Of the style of this work, it is but justice to say that, without aspiring to any high degree of ornament, it is pure, perspicuous, and correct, well suited to the subject on which it is employed.

As a fair specimen of Mr. C.’s manner of thinking, we beg leave to lay before our readers the following just and appropriate remarks on dueling:—

“Deliberate dueling falls under the head of express malice; and the law of England has justly fixed the crime and punishment of murder upon both the principal and accessaries of this most unchristian practice. Nothing more is necessary with us, to check this daring violation of all law, than the same firmness and integrity in the trial of duellists which so eminently distinguish an English jury on all other “occasions.

“Perhaps it will be asked, what are men of honour to do, if they must not appeal to the pistol and sword? The answer is obvious: if one gentleman has offended another, he cannot give a more indisputable proof of genuine courage, than by making a frank acknowledgment of his fault, and asking forgiveness of the injured party. On the other hand, if he have received an affront, he ought freely to forgive, as he hopes to be forgiven of God. And if either of the parties aggravate the matter by sending a challenge to fight, the other must not be a partaker of sin, if he would obey God rather than man.

“Still it will be said that a military or naval man, at least, must not decline a challenge, if he would maintain the character of a man of courage. But is it not insulting the loyalty and good sense of the brave defenders of our laws, to imagine that they of all men must violate them to preserve their honour; since the king has expressly forbidden any military man to send a challenge to fight a duel, upon pain of being cashiered, if an officer; and of suffering corporal punishment, if a non-commissioned officer or private soldier? Nor ought any officer or soldier to upbraid another for refusing a challenge, whom his Majesty positively declares he considers as having only acted in obedience to his (fn. 1) royal orders; and fully acquits of any disgrace that may be attached to his conduct. Besides, what necessary connection is there between the fool-hardiness of one who risks the eternal perdition of his neighbour and of himself in an unlawful combat, and the patriotic bravery of him who, when duty calls, boldly engages the enemy of his king and country? None will dispute the courage of the excellent Colonel Gardiner, who was slain at the battle of Preston Pans, in the rebellion of 1745. Yet he once refused a challenge, with this dignified remark: ‘I fear sinning, though I do not fear fighting.’ (Fn.2) The fact is, that fighting a duel is so far from being a proof of a man’s possessing true courage, that it is an infallible mark of his cowardice. For he is influenced by ‘the fear of man,’ whose praise he loveth more than the praise of God.”

Fn.1  See ‘ Articles of War,’ sec. 7.”

Fn.2 See Doddridge’s ‘Life of Colonel Gardiner,’ an interesting piece of biography, worthy the perusal of every officer in the army and navy.

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CHRISTIANITY PROMOTES A LOVE OF FREEDOM

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

This piece of literature is long, however it is well worth the read, keeping in mind it builds and gains expression as you read further and further, it gets better the further you read as it is laid out in sublime eloquence and common sense reasoning. For the record, I, like Robert Hall am also not a unitarian, nor am I a trinitarian for that matter.

If you can…

Imagine the awe, excitement, wonder and energy among the common people when the Bible was printed in English & other languages, where they could read it for themselves & learned how the state & clergy lied to them for centuries about what was contained there.

These people were lied to all of their lives as were their ancestors for as long as they could remember. They were exposed to the truth for the first time.

They were zealous, honest hearted, and full of the desire to learn more!

This is what led to the foundation of the United States of America during the period called “the Enlightenment”

I saw the same type of hunger for the truth among the church people of Haiti when I was there in ’78.

“There is, assuredly, no other country on earth in which Shakespeare and the Bible are held in such general high esteem,” wrote the German journalist Karl Knortz speaking of the United States of America in the 1880’s

CHRISTIANITY PROMOTES A LOVE OF FREEDOM

ORIGINALLY TITLED: CHRISTIANITY CONSISTENT WITH A LOVE OF FREEDOM:

BEING

AN ANSWER BY REV. ROBERT HALL

TO

A SERMON,

LATELY PUBLISHED, BY THE REV. JOHN CLAYTON.

[published In 1791.]

It may be proper just to remark, that the animadversions I have made on Mr. John Clayton’s Sermon did not arise from my conviction of there being anything even of plausibility in his reasonings, but from an apprehension that certain accidental and occasional prejudices might give some degree of weight to one of the weakest defenses of a bad cause that was ever undertaken. I have taken up more time in showing that there is no proper connection between the Unitarian doctrine and the principles of liberty than the subject may seem to require; but this will not be thought superfluous by those who recollect that that idea seems to be the great hinge of Mr. Clayton’s discourse, and that it appears amongst the orthodox part of the dissenters to have been productive already of unhappy effects. I shall only add, that these remarks would have appeared much sooner but for severe indisposition, and that I was induced to write them chiefly from a persuasion that they might perhaps, in the present instance, have somewhat of additional weight as coming from one who is not an Unitarian.

Cambridge.

Sept. 17, 1791.

John Clayton’s ‘The duty of Christians to Magistrates’: a Sermon occasioned by the late Riots at Birmingham, preached at the King’s Weigh-house, East-Cheap, on Lord’s-day morning, July 24th, 1791. With a prefixed address to the public, intended to remove the reproach lately fallen on protestant dissenters. This sermon which led to a controversy, and provoked from Robert Hall his fine vindication of liberty, entitled ‘Christianity consistent with a Love of Freedom.’

NOTE BY THE EDITOR.

Christianity consistent with a Love of Freedom’ was written when Rev. Robert Hall was twenty-seven years of age; and he never would consent to its re-publication. He continued to think the main principles correct and important; but he regarded the tone of animadversion as severe, sarcastic, and unbecoming. Three or four editions have, however, been printed surreptitiously; and one of them, which now lies before me, Is so complete an imitation of the original edition of 1791, as usually to escape detection.

This, though one of the earliest productions laid by Mr. Hall before the public, is, with the exception already adverted to, by no means calculated to deteriorate his reputation. It contains some powerful reasoning as well as some splendid passages, and the concluding four or five pages exhibit a fine specimen of that union of severe taste, and lofty genius, and noble sentiment, which is evinced, I think, more frequently in his compositions than in those of any other modern author.

I have no fear of incurring blame for having cancelled throughout the name of the individual against whom Mr. Hall’s strictures were leveled. Venerable for his age, and esteemed for his piety, who would now voluntarily cause him, or those who love him, a pang ?*

Royal Miljtary Academy,
June 1,1831.

* As the name is now pretty generally known, and the distance of the event removes all personal feelings, there appears no reason why it should be suppressed in the present edition. It is “The Reverend John Clayton,” at that time minister of the Weigh House, Eastcheap.—Publisher.

CHRISTIANITY CONSISTENT WITH A LOVE OF FREEDOM,
&c. &c.

This is a period distinguished for extraordinary occurrences, whether we contemplate the world under its larger divisions, or in respect to those smaller communities and parties, into which it is broken and divided. We have lately witnessed, with astonishment and regret, the attempts of a celebrated orator to overthrow the principles of freedom, which he had rendered himself illustrious by defending; as well as to cover with reproach the characters of those by whom, in the earlier part of life, he was most caressed and distinguished. The success of these efforts is pretty generally known, and is such as it might have been expected would have been sufficient to deter from similar attempts. But we now behold a dissenting minister coming forth to the public under the character of a flatterer of power, and an accuser of his brethren. If the splendid eloquence that adorns every part of Mr. Burke’s celebrated book cannot shelter the author from confutation, and his system from contempt, Mr. Clayton, with talents far inferior, has but little to expect in the same cause. It is not easy to conceive the motives which could impel him to publish his sermon. From his own account it should seem he was anxious to disabuse the legislature, and to convince them there are many amongst the dissenters who highly disapprove the sentiments and conduct of the more patriotic part of their brethren. How far he may be qualified from his talents or connections, as a mouth, to declare the sentiments of any considerable portion of the dissenters, I shall not pretend to decide; but shall candidly confess, there are not wanting amongst us persons who are ready upon all occasions to oppose those principles on which the very existence of our dissent is founded. Every party will have its apostates of this kind; it is our consolation, however, that their numbers are comparatively small, that they are generally considered as our reproach, and that their conduct is in a great measure the effect of necessity, as they consist almost entirely of persons who can only make themselves heard by confusion and discord. If our author wishes to persuade the legislature the friends of arbitrary power are conspicuous for their number or their rank in the dissenting interest, he has most effectually defeated his own intentions, as scarce anything could give them a meaner opinion of that party, in both these respects, than this publication of its champion. The sermon he has obtruded upon the public is filled with paradoxes of so singular a complexion, and so feebly supported, that I find it difficult to lay hold of anything in the form of argument, with sufficient steadiness for the purpose of discussion.

I shall endeavour, however, with as much distinctness as I am able, to select the fundamental principles on which the discourse rests, and shall attempt, as I proceed, to demonstrate their falsehood and danger.

Our author’s favourite maxim is the inconsistency of the Christian profession with political science, and the certain injury its spirit and temper must sustain from every kind of interference with the affairs of government. Political subjects he considers as falling within the peculiar province of the irreligious; ministers, in particular, he maintains, should ever observe, amidst the concussions of party, an entire neutrality; or if at any time they depart from their natural line of conduct, it should only be in defence of the measures of government, in allaying dissensions, and in convincing the people they are incompetent judges of their rights. These are the servile maxims that run through the whole of this extraordinary discourse; and, that I may give a kind of method to the following observations upon them, I shall show in the first place the relation Christianity bears to civil government, and its consistency with political discussion, as conducted either by ordinary Christians or ministers; in the next place, I shall examine some of the pretences on which the author founds his principles.

Editors Note: It is good to read this in conjunction with “Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God

Thomas Jefferson regarding God's Divine Will (Click to enlarge)

Thomas Jefferson regarding God’s Divine Will (Click to enlarge)

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. Have not found all the sources of the original quotes here, some are found in Herald and Presbyter – Volume 93 from 1921 and attributed to Tocqueville. I have put ? marks after those.

Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things.

In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.

Religion in America…must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it. Indeed, it is in this same point of view that the inhabitants of the United States themselves look upon religious belief.

I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion — for who can search the human heart? But I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.

In the United States, the sovereign authority is religious…there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.

In the United States, the influence of religion is not confined to the manners, but it extends to the intelligence of the people…

Christianity, therefore, reigns without obstacle, by universal consent…

I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors…; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution.?

Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.?

America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.? Catalog of Copyright Entries. Third Series: 1953: January-June By Library of Congres

The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other

Christianity is the companion of liberty in all its conflicts — the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims.

Section I.

On the Duty of common Christians in Relation to Civil Polity.

The momentous errors Mr. Clayton has committed appear to me to have arisen from an inattention to the proper design of Christianity, and the place and station it was intended to occupy. On this subject I beg the reader’s attention to the following remarks:—

1st. Christianity was subsequent to the existence and creation of man. It is an institution intended to improve and ennoble our nature, not by subverting its constitution or its powers, but by giving us a more enlarged view of the designs of Providence, and opening a prospect into eternity. As the existence of man is not to be dated from the publication of Christianity, so neither is that order of things that flows from his relation to the present world altered or impaired by that divine system of religion. Man, under the Christian dispensation, is not a new structure erected on the ruin of the former; he may rather be compared to an ancient fabric restored, when it had fallen into decay, and beautified afresh by the hand of its original founder. Since Christianity has made its appearance in the world, he has continued the same kind of being he was before, fills the same scale in the order of existence, and is distinguished by the same propensities and powers.

In short, Christianity is not a reorganization of the principles of man, but an institution for his improvement. Hence it follows, that whatever rights are founded on the constitution of human nature, cannot be diminished or impaired by the introduction of revealed religion, which occupies itself entirely on the interests of a future world, and takes no share in the concerns of the present in any other light than as it is a state of preparation and trial. Christianity is a discovery of a future life, and acquaints us with the means by which its happiness may be secured; civil government is altogether an affair of the present state, and is no more than a provision of human skill, designed to ensure freedom and tranquility during our continuance on this temporary stage of existence. Between institutions so different in their nature and their object, it is plain no real opposition can subsist; and if ever they are represented in this light, or held inconsistent with each other, it must proceed from an ignorance of their respective genius and functions. Our relation to this world demands the existence of civil government; our relation to a future renders us dependent on the aid of the Christian institution; so that in reality there is no kind of contrariety between them, but each may continue without interference in its full operation. Mr. Clayton, however, in support of his absurd and pernicious tenets, always takes care to place civil government and Christianity in opposition, whilst he represents the former as carrying in it somewhat antichristian and profane. Thus he informs us, that civil government is a stage, erected on which, man acts out his character, and shows great depravity of heart. All interference in political parties he styles an alliance with the world, a neglecting to maintain our separation, and to stand upon our own hallowed ground. There is one way, says he, by which he means to insinuate there is only one, in which you may all interfere in the government of your country, and that is by prayer to God, by whom kings reign. These passages imply that the principles of civil polity and religion must be at perpetual variance, as without this supposition, unsupported as it is in fact, they can have no force or meaning.

2nd. Mr. Clayton misleads his reader by not distinguishing the innocent entertainments or social duties of our nature from those acts of piety which fall within the immediate province of Christianity.

The employments of our particular calling, the social ties and endearments of life, the improvement of the mind by liberal inquiry, and the cultivation of science and of art, form, it is true, no part of the Christian system, for they flourished before it was known; but they are intimately connected with the happiness and dignity of the human race. A Christian should act ever consistent with his profession, but he need not always be attending to the peculiar duties of it. The profession of religion does not oblige us to relinquish any undertaking on account of its being worldly, for we must then go out of the world; it is sufficient, that everything in “which we engage is of such a nature as will not violate the principles of virtue, or occupy so much of our time or attention as may interfere with more sacred and important duties.

Mr. Clayton observes, Jesus Christ uniformly waived interesting himself in temporal affairs, especially in the concerns of the then existing government; and hence he draws a precedent to regulate the conduct of his followers. That our Saviour did not intermeddle with the policy of nations I am as willing as our author to admit; for the improvement of this, any more than any other science which might be extremely short and defective, formed no part of his mission, and was besides rendered quite unnecessary by that energy of mind which, prompted by curiosity, by our passions and our wants, will ever be abundantly sufficient to perpetuate and refine every civil or human institution. He never intended that his followers, on becoming Christians, should forget they were men, or consider themselves as idle or uninterested spectators on the great theatre of life. The author’s selection of proofs is almost always unhappy, but in no instance more than the present, when he attempts to establish his doctrine of the unlawfulness of a Christian interfering in the administration of government on our Saviour’s silence respecting it, a circumstance of itself sufficient to support a quite contrary conclusion; for if it had been his intention to discountenance the study of political subjects, he would have furnished us, without doubt, with some general regulations, some stated form of policy, which should forever preclude the necessity of such discussion; or, if that were impracticable, have let us into the great secret of living without government; or, lastly, have supplied its place by a theocracy similar to that of the Jews. Nothing of this has he accomplished, and we may therefore rest assured the political affairs of nations are suffered to remain in their ancient channels, and to be conducted as occasions may arise, by Christians or by others, without distinction.

The principles of freedom ought, in a more peculiar manner, to be cherished by Christians, because they alone can secure that liberty of conscience, and freedom of inquiry, which is essential to the proper discharge of the duties of their profession. A full toleration of religious opinions, and the protection of all parties in their respective modes of worship, are the natural operations of a free government; and everything that tends to check or restrain them, materially affects the interests of religion. Aware of the force of religious belief over the mind of man, of the generous independence it inspires, and of the eagerness with which it is cherished and maintained, it is towards this quarter the arm of despotism first directs its attacks, while through every period the imaginary right of ruling the conscience has been the earliest assumed, and the latest relinquished. Under this conviction, an enlightened Christian, when he turns his attention to political occurrences, will rejoice in beholding every advance towards freedom in the government of nations, as it forms not only a barrier to the encroachments of tyranny, but a security to the diffusion and establishment of truth. A considerable portion of personal freedom may be enjoyed, it is true, under a despotic government, or, in other words, a great part of human actions may be left uncontrolled; but with this an enlightened mind will never rest satisfied, because it is at best but an indulgence flowing from motives of policy, or the lenity of the prince, which may be at any time withdrawn by the hand that bestowed it. Upon the same principles, religious toleration may have an accidental and precarious existence in states whose policy is the most arbitrary; but, in such a situation, it seldom lasts long, and can never rest upon a secure and permanent basis, disappearing for the most part along with those temporary views of interest or policy, on which it was founded. The history of every age will attest the truth of this observation.

Mr. Clayton, in order to prepare us to digest his principles, tells us in the first page of his discourse, that the gospel dispensation is spiritual, the worship it enjoins simple and easy, and if liberty of conscience be granted, all its exterior order may be regarded under every kind of human government. This is very true, but it is saying no more than that the Christian worship may be always carried on, if it is not interrupted; a point, I presume, no one will contend with him. The question is, can every form of government furnish a security for liberty of conscience; or, which is the same thing, can the rights of private judgment be safe under a government whose professed principle is, that the subject has no rights at all, but is a vassal dependent on his superior lord. Nor is this a futile or chimerical question; it is founded upon fact. The state to which it alludes is the condition at present of more than half the nations of Europe; and if there were no better patriots than this author, it would soon be the condition of them all. The blessings which we estimate highly we are naturally eager to perpetuate, and whoever is acquainted with the value of religious freedom, will not be content to suspend it on the clemency of a prince, the indulgence of ministers, or ,.he liberality of bishops, if ever such a thing existed; he will never think it secure till it has a constitutional basis; nor even then, till by the general spread of its principles, every individual becomes its guarantee, and every arm ready to be lifted up in its defence. Forms of policy may change, or they may survive the spirit that produced them; but when the seeds of knowledge have been once sown, and have taken root in the human mind, they will advance with a steady growth, and even flourish in those alarming scenes of anarchy and confusion, in which the settled order and regular machinery of government are wrecked and disappear.

Christianity, we see, then, instead of weakening our attachment to the principles of freedom, or withdrawing them from our attention, renders them doubly dear to us, by giving us an interest in them, proportioned to the value of those religious privileges which they secure and protect.

Our author [Clayton] endeavours to cast reproach on the advocates for liberty, by attempting to discredit their piety, for which purpose he assures us, to be active in this cause is disreputable, and brings the reality of our religion into just suspicion. Who are the persons, he asks, that embark? Are they the spiritual, humble, and useful teachers, who travail in birth, till Christ be formed in the hearts of their hearers? No. They are philosophical opposers of the grand peculiarities of Christianity. It is of little consequence of what descriptions of persons the friends of freedom consist, provided their principles are just, and their arguments well founded; but here, as in other places, the author displays an utter ignorance of facts. Men who know no age but their own, must draw their precedents from it; or, if Mr. Clayton had glanced only towards the history of England, he must have remembered, that in the reigns of Charles the First and Second, the chief friends of freedom were the puritans, of whom many were republicans, and the remainder zealously attached to a limited monarchy [i.e. Limited Government]. It is to the distinguished exertions of this party we are in a great measure indebted for the preservation of our free and happy constitution. In those distracted and turbulent times which preceded the restoration of Charles the Second, the puritans, who to a devotion the most fervent united an eager attachment to the doctrines of grace, as they are commonly called, displayed on every occasion a love of freedom, pushed almost to excess; whilst the cavaliers, their opponents, who ridiculed all that was serious, and, if they had any religion at all, held sentiments directly repugnant to the tenets of Calvin, were the firm supporters of arbitrary power. If the unitarians, then, are at present distinguished for their zeal in the cause of freedom, it cannot be imputed to any alliance between their religious and political opinions, but to the conduct natural to a minority, who, attempting bold innovations, and maintaining sentiments very different from those which are generally held, are sensible they can only shelter themselves from persecution and reproach, and gain an impartial hearing from the public, by throwing down the barriers of prejudice, and claiming an unlimited freedom of thought.

4th. Though Christianity does not assume any immediate direction in the affairs of government, it inculcates those duties, and recommends that spirit, which will ever prompt us to cherish the principles of freedom. It teaches us to check every selfish passion, to consider ourselves as parts of a great community, and to abound in all the fruits of an active benevolence. The particular operation of this principle will be regulated by circumstances as they arise, but our obligation to cultivate it is clear and indubitable. As this author does not pretend that the nature of a government has no connection with the felicity of those who are the subjects of it, he cannot without the utmost inconsistence deny, that to watch over the interests of our fellow creatures in this respect is a branch of the great duty of social benevolence. If we are bound to protect a neighbour, or even an enemy, from violence, to give him raiment when he is naked, or food when he is hungry, much more ought we to do our part toward the preservation of a free government; the only basis on which the enjoyment of these blessings can securely rest. He who breaks the fetters of slavery, and delivers a nation from thraldom, forms, in my opinion, the noblest comment on the great law of love, whilst he distributes the greatest blessing which man can receive from man; but next to that is the merit of him, who in times like the present, watches over the edifice of public liberty, repairs its foundations, and strengthens its cement, when he beholds it hastening to decay.

It is not in the power of every one, it is true, to benefit his age or country, in this distinguished manner, and accordingly it is nowhere expressly commanded; but where this ability exists, it is not diminished by our embracing Christianity, which consecrates every talent to the public good. On whomsoever distinguished endowments are bestowed, as Christians we ought to rejoice when, instead of being wasted in vain or frivolous pursuits, we behold them employed on objects of the greatest general concern; amongst which those principles of freedom will ever be reckoned, which determine the destiny of nations, and the collective felicity of the human race.

5th. Our author [Clayton] expresses an ardent desire for the approach of that period when all men will be Christians. I have no doubt that this event will take place, and rejoice in the prospect of it; but whenever it arrives, it will be fatal to Mr. Clayton’s favourite principles; for the professors of Christianity must then become politicians, as the wicked, on whom he at present very politely devolves the business of government, will be no more: or, perhaps he indulges a hope, that even then, there will be a sufficient number of sinners left to conduct political affairs, especially as wars will then cease, and social life be less frequently disturbed by rapine and injustice. It will still, however, be a great hardship, that a handful of the wicked should rule innumerable multitudes of the just, and cannot fail, according to our present conceptions, to operate as a kind of check on piety and virtue. How Mr. Clayton will settle this point I cannot pretend to say, except he imagines men will be able to subsist without any laws or civil regulations, or intends to revive the long-exploded tradition of Papias [Bishop of Hierapolis, and author of the Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord in five books], respecting the personal reign.

Had Christianity been intended only for the benefit of a few, or as the distinction of a small fraternity, there might have been some pretense for setting its profession in opposition to human policy, since it might then have been conducted without their interference; but a religion which is formed for the whole world, and will finally be embraced by all its inhabitants, can never be clogged with any such impediment as would render it repugnant to the social existence of mankind.

Section II.

On the Duty of Ministers in Respect to Civil Polity.

Mr. Clayton is extremely severe upon those of his brethren, who, forsaking the quiet duties of their profession as he styles them, have dared to interfere in public affaire. This he considers a most flagrant offence, an alarming departure from their proper province; and in the fulness of his rage he heaps upon them every epithet which contempt or indignation can suggest; calls them meddling, convivial, political ministers, devoid of all seriousness and dignity. It is rather extraordinary, this severe correction should be administered by a man who is, at that moment, guilty of the offence he is chastising; reproaches political preachers in a political sermon; ridicules theories of government, and at the same time advances one of his own, a most wretched one indeed, but delivered in a tone the most arrogant and decisive. It is not political discussion then, it seems, that has ruffled the gentle serenity of our author’s temper; for he too, we see, can bend, when it pleases him, from his spiritual elevation, and let fall his oracular responses on the duty of subjects and of kings. But the persons on whom he denounces his anathemas have presumed to adopt a system of politics inconsistent with his own, and it is less his piety than his pride that is shocked and offended. Instead of submitting to be molded by any adept in cringes, and posture-master of servility, they have dared to assume the bold and natural port of freemen.

It will be unnecessary to say much on the duty of ministers, in respect to political affairs, as many of the reflections which this subject would suggest have been already advanced under a former head. A few considerations, however, present themselves here, to which I shall beg the reader’s attention.

The duties of the ministerial character, it will on all hands be confessed, are of a nature the most sacred and important. To them should be directed the first and chief attention of every person who sustains it, and whatever is found to interfere with these momentous engagements, should be relinquished as criminal and improper. But there is no profession which occupies the mind so fully as not to leave many intervals of leisure, in which objects that lie out of its immediate province will have a share of our attention; and I see not why these periods of recess may not be employed with as much dignity and advantage, in acquiring an acquaintance with the principles of government, as wasted in frivolous amusements, or an inactive indolence. Mr. Clayton, with his usual confidence, lays it down as a maxim, that the science of politics cannot be cultivated without a neglect of ministerial duties; and one would almost be tempted to suppose he had published his sermon as a confirmation of this remark; for a more striking example of political ignorance in a teacher of religion, has scarcely ever been exhibited. As far, therefore, as the preacher himself is concerned, the observation will be admitted in its full force; but he has surely no right to make his own weakness the standard of another’s strength.

Political science, as far as it falls under our present contemplation, may be considered in two points of view. It may either intend a discussion of the great objects for which governments are formed, or it may intend a consideration of the means which may be employed, and the particular contrivances that may be fallen upon to accomplish those objects. For example, in vindicating the revolution of France, two distinct methods may be pursued with equal propriety and success. It may be defended upon its principles against the friends of arbitrary power, by displaying the value of freedom, the equal rights of mankind, the folly and injustice of those regal or aristocratic pretensions by which those rights were invaded; accordingly, in this light it has been justified with the utmost success. Or it may be defended upon its expedients, by exhibiting the elements of government which it has composed, the laws it has enacted, and the tendency of both to extend and perpetuate that liberty which is its ultimate object. But though each of these modes of discussion fall within the province of politics, it is obvious the degree of inquiry, of knowledge, and of labour they require, differs widely. The first is a path which has been often and successfully trod, turns upon principles which are common to all times and places, and which demand little else to enforce conviction, than calm and dispassionate attention. The latter method, involving a question of expediency, not of right, would lead into a vast field of detail, would require a thorough acquaintance with the situation of persons and of things, as well as long and intimate acquaintance with human affairs. There are but few ministers who have capacity or leisure to become great practical politicians. To explore the intricacies of commercial science, to penetrate the refinements of negotiation, to determine with certainty and precision the balance of power, are undertakings, it will be confessed, which lie very remote from the ministerial department; but the principles of government, as it is a contrivance for securing the freedom and happiness of men, may be acquired with great ease.

These principles our ancestors understood well, and it would be no small shame if, in an age which boasts so much light and improvement as the present, they were less familiar to us. There is no class of men to whom this species of knowledge is so requisite, on several accounts, as dissenting ministers. The jealous policy of the establishment forbids our youth admission into the celebrated seats of learning; our own seminaries, at least till lately, were almost entirely confined to candidates for the ministry; and as on both these accounts, amongst us, the intellectual improvement of our religious teachers rises superior to that of private Christians, in a greater degree than in the national church, the influence of their opinions is wider in proportion. Disclaiming, as they do, all pretensions to dominion, their public character, their professional leisure, the habits of study and composition which they acquire, concur to point them out as the natural guardians, in some measure, of our liberties and rights. Besides, as they are appointed to teach the whole compass of social duty, the mutual obligations of rulers and subjects will of necessity fall under their notice; and they cannot explain or enforce the reasons of submission, without displaying the proper end of government, and the expectations we may naturally form from it; which, when accurately done, will lead into the very depths of political science.

There is another reason, however, distinct from any I have yet mentioned, flowing from the nature of an established religion, why dissenting ministers, above all men, should be well skilled in the principles of freedom. Wherever, as in England, religion is established by law with splendid emoluments and dignities annexed to its profession, the clergy, who are candidates for these distinctions, will ever be prone to exalt the prerogative, not only in order to strengthen the arm on which they lean, but that they may the more successfully ingratiate themselves in the favour of the prince, by flattering those ambitious views and passions which are too readily entertained by persons possessed of supreme power. The boasted alliance between church and state, on which so many encomiums [Tributes: speeches or pieces of writing that praises someone or something highly] have been lavished, seems to have been little more than a compact between the priest and the magistrate, to betray the liberties of mankind, both civil and religious. To this the clergy, on their part at least, have continued steady, shunning inquiry, fearful of change, blind to the corruptions of government, skilful to discern the signs of the times, and eager to improve every opportunity, and to employ all their art and eloquence to extend the prerogative and smooth the approaches of arbitrary power. Individuals are illustrious exceptions to this censure; it however applies to the body, to none more than to those whose exalted rank and extensive influence determine its complexion and spirit. In this situation, the leaders of that church, in their fatal attempt to recommend and embellish a slavish system of principles, will, I trust, be ever carefully watched and opposed by those who hold a similar station amongst the dissenters; that, at all events, there may remain one asylum to which insulted freedom may retire unmolested. These considerations are sufficient to justify every dissenting minister in well-timed exertions for the public cause, and from them we may learn what opinion to entertain of Mr. Clayton’s weak and malignant invectives.

From the general strain of his discourse, it would be natural to conclude he was an enemy to every interference of ministers on political occasions; but this is not the case. Ministers, says he, may interfere as peace-makers, and by proper methods should counteract the spirit of faction raised by persons who seem born to vex the state. After having taught them to remain in a quiet neutrality, he invests them all at once with the high character of arbiters between the contending parties, without considering that an office of so much delicacy would demand a most intimate acquaintance with the pretensions of both. Ministers, it should seem, instead of declining political interference, are to become such adepts in the science of government, as to distinguish with precision the complaints of an oppressed party from the clamors of a faction, to hold the balance between the ruler and the subject with a steady hand, and to point out on every occasion, and counteract the persons who are born to vex the state. If any should demand by what means they are to furnish themselves for such extraordinary undertakings, he will learn that it is not by political investigation or inquiry this profound skill is to be attained, but by a studied inattention and neglect; of which this author, it must be confessed, has given his disciples a most edifying example in his first essay. There is something miraculous in these endowments. This battle is not to the strong, nor these riches to men of understanding. Our author goes a step farther, for when he is in the humour for concessions no man can be more liberal. So far as revolutions, says he, are parts of God’s plan of government, a Christian is not to hinder such changes in states as promise an increase of happiness to mankind. But nowhere in the New Testament can a Christian find countenance in becoming a forward active man in regenerating the civil constitutions of nations. A Christian is not to oppose revolutions, as far as they are parts of God’s plan of government. The direction which oracles afford has ever been complained of for its obscurity; and this of Mr. Clayton, though no doubt it is fraught with the profoundest wisdom, would have been more useful, had it furnished some criterion to distinguish those transactions which are parts of God’s plan of government. We have hitherto imagined the elements of nature, and the whole agency of man, are comprehended within the system of Divine Providence; but, as in this sense everything becomes a part of the divine plan, it cannot be his meaning. Perhaps he means to confine the phrase of God’s plan of government to that portion of human agency which is consistent with the divine will and promises, or, as he says, with an increase of happiness to mankind. If this should be his intention, the sentiment is just, but utterly subversive of the purpose for which it is introduced, as it concurs with the principle of all reformers in leaving us no other direction in these cases than reason and experience, determined in their exertions by a regard to the general happiness of mankind. On this basis the wildest projectors profess to erect their improvements. On this principle, too, do the dissenters proceed, when they call for a repeal of the test act, when they lament the unequal representation of parliament, when they wish to see a period to ministerial corruption, and to the encroachments of an hierarchy equally servile and oppressive; and thus, by one unlucky concession, this author has admitted the ground-work of reform in its fullest extent, and has demolished the whole fabric he was so eager to rear. He must not be offended if principles thus corrupt, and thus feebly supported, should meet with the contempt they deserve, but must seek his consolation in his own adage, as the correction of folly is certainly apart of God’s plan of government. The reader can be at no loss to determine whom the author intends by a busy active man in regenerating the civil constitutions of nations. The occasion of the sermon, and complexion of its sentiments, concur in directing us to Dr. Priestley, a person whom the author [Clayton] seems to regard with a more than odium theologicum [i.e. theological hatred], with a rancor exceeding the measure even of his profession. The religious tenets of Dr. Priestley appear to me erroneous in the extreme; but I should be sorry to suffer any difference of sentiment to diminish my sensibility to virtue, or my admiration of genius. From him the poisoned arrow will fall pointless. His enlightened and active mind, his unwearied assiduity, the extent of his researches, the light he has poured into almost every department of science, will be the admiration of that period, when the greater part of those who have favoured, or those who have opposed him, will be alike forgotten. Distinguished merit will ever rise superior to oppression, and will draw luster from reproach. The vapours which gather round the rising sun, and follow it in its course, seldom fail at the close of it to form a magnificent theatre for its reception, and to invest with variegated tints, and with a softened effulgence, the luminary which they cannot hide. [NOTE: Whether or not the beautiful passage in the text was suggested by a floating vague recollection of the following lines of Pope, or were an avowed imitation of them, cannot now be determined. But be this as it may, I think it will be readily admitted that the rhythm and harmony of the passage in prose are decidedly superior to those in the lines of the poet:—

“Envy will merit, as its shade, pursue,
But, like a shadow, prove the substance true:
For envied wit, like Sol [the Sun] eclips’d, makes known
Th’ opposing body’s grossness, not its own.
When first that sun too powerful beams displays,
It draws up vapours which obscure its rays:
But e’en those clouds at last adorn its way,
Reflect new glories, and augment the day.”—Editor.]

It is a pity, however, our author [Clayton], in reproaching characters so illustrious, was not a little more attentive to facts; for unfortunately for him, Dr. Priestley has not in any instance displayed that disaffection to government with which he has been charged so wantonly. In his Lectures on History, and his Essay on Civil Government, which of all his publications fall most properly within the sphere of politics, he has delineated the British constitution with great accuracy, and has expressed his warm admiration of it as the best system of policy the sagacity of man has been able to contrive. In his Familiar Letters to the Inhabitants of Birmingham, a much later work, where the seeds of that implacable dislike were scattered which produced the late riots, he has renewed that declaration, and has informed us, that he has been pleasantly ridiculed by his friends as being an unitarian in religion, and a trinitarian in politics. He has lamented, indeed, in common with every enlightened citizen, the existence of certain corruptions, which, being gradually introduced into the constitution, have greatly impaired its vigour; but in this he has had the honour of being followed by the prime minister himself, who began his career by proposing a reform in parliament, merely to court popularity it is true, at a time when it would not have been so safe for him to insult the friends of freedom after having betrayed their interest, as he has since found it.

Dr. Priestley has, moreover, defended with great ability and success the principles of our dissent, exposing, as the very nature of the undertaking demands, the folly and injustice of all clerical usurpations; and on this account, if on no other, he is entitled to the gratitude of his brethren. In addition to this catalogue of crimes, he has ventured to express his satisfaction on the liberation of France; an event which, promising a firmer establishment to liberty than any recorded in the annals of the world, is contemplated by the friends of arbitrary power throughout every kingdom of Europe with the utmost concern. These are the demerits of Dr. Priestley, for which this political astrologist and sacred calculator of nativities pronounces upon him that he is born to vex the state. The best apology candour can suggest, will be to hope Mr. Clayton has never read Dr. Priestley’s political works; a conjecture somewhat confirmed from his disclaiming all attention to political theories, and from the extreme ignorance he displays through the whole of his discourse on political topics. Still it is to be wished he would have condescended to understand what he means to confute, if it had been only to save himself the trouble and disgrace of this publication.

The manner in which he speaks of the Birmingham riots, and the cause to which he traces them, are too remarkable to pass unnoticed.

When led, says he, speaking of the sufferers, by officious zeal, from the quiet duties of their profession into the Senator’s province: unhallowed boisterous passions in others, like their own, God may permit to chastise them. For my own part I was some time before I could develope this extraordinary passage; but I now find the darkness in which it is veiled is no more than that mystic sublimity which has always tinctured the language of those who are appointed to interpret the counsels of heavens.

I would not have Mr. Clayton deal too freely in these visions, lest the fire and illumination of the prophet should put out the reason of the man, a caution the more necessary in the present instance, as it glimmers so feebly already in several parts of his discourse, that its extinction would not be at all extraordinary. We are, no doubt, much obliged to him for letting us into a secret we could never have learned any other way. We thank him heartily for informing us that the Birmingham riots were a judgment; and, as we would wish to be grateful for such an important communication, we would whisper in his ear in return, that he should be particularly careful not to suffer this itch of prophesying to grow upon him, men being extremely apt, in this degenerate age, to mistake a prophet for a madman, and to lodge them in the same place of confinement. The best use he could make of his mantle would be to bequeath it to the use of posterity, as for the want of it I am afraid they will be in danger of falling into some very unhappy mistakes. To their unenlightened eyes it will appear a reproach, that in the eighteenth century, an age that boasts its science and improvement, the first philosopher in Europe, of a character unblemished, and of manners the most mild and gentle, should be torn from his family, and obliged to flee an outcast and a fugitive from the murderous bands of a frantic rabble; but when they learn that there were not wanting teachers of religion, who secretly triumphed in these barbarities, they will pause for a moment, and imagine they are reading the history of Goths or of Vandals. Erroneous as such a judgment must appear in the eyes of Mr. Clayton, nothing but a ray of his supernatural light could enable us to form a more just decision. Dr. Priestley and his friends are not the first that have suffered in a public cause; and when we recollect, that those who have sustained similar disasters have been generally conspicuous for a superior sanctity of character, what but an acquaintance with the counsels of heaven can enable us to distinguish between these two classes of sufferers, and, whilst one are the favourites of God, to discern in the other the objects of his vengeance? When we contemplate this extraordinary endowment, we are no longer surprised at the superiority he assumes through the whole of his discourse, nor at that air of confusion and disorder which appears in it; both of which we impute to his dwelling so much in the insufferable light, and amidst the coruscations and flashes of the divine glory; a sublime but perilous situation, described with great force and beauty by Mr. Gray:

“He passed the flaming bounds of place and time:
The living throne, the sapphire blaze,
Where angels tremble while they gaze.
He saw; but blasted with excess of light,
Closed his eyes in endless night”

Section III.

On the Pretenses Mr. Clayton advances in favour of his Principles.

Having endeavoured to justify the well-timed exertions of Christians and of ministers, in the cause of freedom, it may not be improper to examine a little more particularly under what pretences Mr. Clayton presumes to condemn this conduct.

The first that naturally presents itself, is drawn from those passages of Scripture in which the design of civil government is explained, and the duty of submission to civil authority is enforced. That on which the greatest stress is laid, is found in the thirteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God: the powers which be, are ordained of God. Whoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist, shall receive unto themselves damnation. The Ruler is the Minister of God to thee for good. But if thou doest that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain. Wherefore ye must be subject, not only for wrath, but conscience sake.” This passage, which, from the time of Sir Robert Filmer to the present day, has been the stronghold of the doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance, will admit of an easy solution, by attending to the nature of Christianity, and the circumstances of its professors, during the period in which it was written. The extraordinary privileges and dignity conferred by the Gospel on believers, must have affected the minds of the first Christians, just emerging from the shades of ignorance, and awakened to new hopes, with singular force. Feeling an elevation to which they were strangers before, and looking down upon the world around them as the vassals of sin and Satan, they might be easily tempted to imagine the restraint of laws could not extend to persons so highly privileged, and that it was ignominious in the free men of Jesus Christ to submit to the yoke of idolatrous rulers. Natural to their situation as these sentiments might be, none could be conceived more detrimental to the credit and propagation of a rising religion, or more likely to draw down upon its professors the whole weight of the Roman Empire, with which they were in no condition to contend. In this situation, it was proper for the apostle to remind Christians, their religion did not interfere with the rights of princes, or diminish their obligation to attend to those salutary regulations which are established for the protection of innocence and the punishment of the guilty. That this only was the intention of the writer, may be inferred from the considerations he adduces to strengthen his advice. He does not draw his arguments for submission from anything peculiar to the Christian system, as he must have done, had he intended to oppose that religion to the natural rights of mankind, but from the utility and necessity of civil restraints.

“The Ruler is the Minister of God to thee for good,” is the reason he urges for submission. Civil government, as if he had said, is a salutary institution, appointed to restrain and punish outrage and injustice, but exhibiting to the quiet and inoffensive nothing of which they need to be afraid. “If thou doest that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain.” He is an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Christians were not to consider themselves privileged above their fellow-citizens, as their religion conferred upon them no civil immunities, but left them subject to all the ties and restraints, whatever they were, which could be justly imposed by the civil power on any other part of mankind.

The limits of every duty must be determined by its reasons, and the only ones assigned here, or that can be assigned for submission to civil authority, are its tendency to do good; wherever therefore this shall cease to be the case, submission becomes absurd, having no longer any rational view. But at what time this evil shall be judged to have arrived, or what remedy it may be proper to apply, Christianity does not decide, but leaves to be determined by an appeal to natural reason and right. By one of the strangest misconceptions in the world, when we are taught that Christianity does not bestow upon us any new rights, it has been thought to strip us of our old; which is just the same as it would be to conclude, because it did not first furnish us with hands or feet, it obliges us to cut them off.

Under every form of government, that civil order which affords protection to property, and tranquillity to individuals, must be obeyed; and I have no doubt, that before the revolution in France, they who are now its warmest admirers, had they lived there, would have yielded a quiet submission to its laws, as being conscious the social compact can only be considered as dissolved by an expression of the general will. In the mean time, they would have continued firm in avowing the principles of freedom, and by the diffusion of political knowledge, have endeavoured to train and prepare the minds of their fellow-citizens for accomplishing a change so desirable.

It is not necessary to enter into a particular examination of the other texts adduced by Mr. Clayton in support of his sentiments, as this in Romans is by much the most to his purpose, and the remarks that have been made upon it may, with very little alteration, be applied to the rest. He refers us to the second chapter of the first Epistle of Peter. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him, for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well.” Here it is sufficient to remark, all that can be inferred from this passage is, that Christians are not to hold themselves exempt from the obligation of obedience on account of their religion, but are to respect legislation as far as it is found productive of benefit in social life.

With still less propriety, he urges the first of Timothy, where, in the second chapter, we are “exhorted to supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks for all men, for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.” I am unacquainted with any who refuse a compliance with this apostolical admonition, except the nonjurors may be reckoned of this class, whose political sentiments are of a piece with our author’s.

Whilst he pleads with so much eagerness for the duty of passive obedience, we are not, however, to suppose, he wishes to extend it to all mankind. He admits, that society, under the wisest regulations, will degenerate, and there will be periods when associated bodies must be resolved again into their first principles. All resistance to authority, every revolution, is not in his own opinion criminal; it is Christians only, who are never to have a share in these transactions, never to assert their rights. With what different sentiments did the apostle of the Gentiles contemplate his character, when disdaining to accept a clandestine dismission from an unjust imprisonment, he felt a glow of indignant pride burn upon his cheek, and exclaimed with a Roman energy, “I was free born!”

2nd. Another reason which this author [Clayton] assigns for a blind deference to civil authority is, that Christianity is distinct from and independent of human legislation. This principle no protestant dissenter will be inclined to question, but, instead of lending any support to the system of passive obedience, it will overturn it from its foundation; for if religion be really distinct from, and independent of, human legislation, it cannot afford any standard to ascertain its limits; as the moment it is applied to this purpose, it ceases to be a thing distinct and independent. For example, it is not doubted that a Christian may lawfully engage in trade or commerce; but if it be asked why his profession does not interfere with such an undertaking, the proper reply will be, religion is a thing distinct and independent. Should it be again inquired, why a Christian may become a trader, yet must not commit a theft, we should answer, that this latter action is not a thing distinct, or independent of religion, but falls immediately under its cognizance, as a violation of its laws. Thus it appears, that whatever portion of human conduct is really independent of religion, is lawful for that very reason, and can then only become criminal or improper, when it is suffered to entrench upon more sacred or important duties. The truth is, between two institutions, such as civil government and religion, which have a separate origin and end, no opposition can subsist, but in the brain of a distempered enthusiast.

The author’s [Clayton’s] text confutes his doctrine, for had our Saviour annihilated our rights, he would have become a judge and divider over us, in the worst sense, if that could be said to be divided which is taken away. When any two institutions are affirmed to be distinct and independent, it can only mean, they do not interfere; but that must be a genius of no common size, who can infer from religion not interfering with the rights of mankind, that they cease to be, or that the patrimony, over which our Lord declined to exercise any authority, he has scattered and destroyed.

3rd. Similar to the last I have considered, is that pretence for excluding Christians from any concern in political affairs, taken from the conduct of our Saviour. Mr. Clayton tells us, that Christ uniformly waived interesting himself in the concerns of the then existing government; and to the same purpose he afterwards remarks, he always declined the functions of a civil magistrate.

The most careless reader will remark, the whole weight of this argument rests upon a supposition that it is unlawful for a Christian to sustain any other character in civil life, than that in which our Saviour literally appeared; a notion as extravagant as was ever nourished in the brain of the wildest fanatic. Upon this principle, he must have gone through such a succession of offices, and engaged in such an endless variety of undertakings, that in place of thirty-three years, he needed to have lived thirty-three centuries. On this ground the profession of physic is unlawful for a Christian, because our Lord never set up a dispensary; and that of Law, because he never pleaded at the bar. Next to the weakness of advancing such absurdity, is that of confuting it.

The author [Clayton], in proof of his political tenets, appeals to the devotional feelings of his hearers. “I ask you,” says he, “who make conscience of entering into your closets, and shutting your doors, and praying to your Father which seeth in secret; what subjects interest you most then? Are not factious passions hushed; the undue heat you felt in political disputation remembered with sorrow?” He must be at a great loss for argument, who will have recourse to such loose and flimsy declamation. When engaged in devout admiration of the Supreme Being, every other object will be lost in the comparison; but this, though the noblest employment of the mind, was never intended to shut out all other concerns.

The affections which unite us to the world have a large demand upon us, and must succeed in their turn. If everything is to be deemed criminal that does not interest the attention in the very moment of worship, political concerns are not the only ones to be abandoned, but every undertaking of a temporal nature, all labour and ingenuity must cease. Science herself must shroud her light. These are notions rather to be laughed at than confuted, for their extravagance will correct itself. Every attempt that has been made to rear religion on the ruins of nature, or to render it subversive of the economy of life, has hitherto proved unsuccessful, whilst the institutions that have flowed from it are now scarcely regarded in any other light than as humiliating monuments of human weakness and folly. The natural vigour of the mind, when it has once been opened by knowledge, and turned towards great and interesting objects, will always overpower the illusions of fanaticism; or, could Mr. Clayton’s principles be carried into effect, we should soon behold men returning again to the state of savages, and a more than monkish barbarity and ignorance would overspread the earth. That abstraction from the world it is his purpose to recommend, is in truth as inconsistent with the nature of religion, as with the state and condition of man; for Christianity does not propose to take us out of the world, but to preserve us from the pollutions which are in it.

It is easy to brand a passion for liberty with the odious [hateful] epithet of faction; no two things, however, can be more opposite. Faction is a combination of a few to oppress the liberties of many; the love of freedom is the impulse of an enlightened and presiding spirit, ever intent upon the welfare of the community, or body to which it belongs, and ready to give the alarm, when it beholds any unlawful conspiracy formed, whether it be of rulers or of subjects, with a design to oppress it. Every Tory upholds a faction; every Whig, as far as he is sincere and well informed, is a friend to the equal liberties of mankind. Absurd as the preacher’s appeal must appear, on such an occasion, to the devout feelings of his hearers, we have no need to decline it. In those solemn moments, factious passions cannot indeed be too much hushed, but that warmth which animates the patriot, which glowed in the breast of a Sidney or a Hampden, was never chilled, or diminished, we may venture to affirm, in its nearest approaches to the uncreated splendour; and if it mingled with their devotion at all, could not fail to infuse into it a fresh force and vigour, by drawing them into a closer assimilation to that great Being, who appears under the character of the avenger of the oppressed, and the friend and protector of the human race.

Lastly, the author [Clayton] endeavours to discredit the principles of freedom, by holding them up as intimately connected with the unitarian heresy. “We are not to be surprised,” he says, “if men who vacate the rule of faith in Jesus Christ, should be defective in deference and in obedient regards to men who are raised to offices of superior influence, for the purposes of civil order and public good.” The persons he has in view are the unitarians, and that my reader may be in full possession of this most curious argument, it may be proper to inform him, that an unitarian is a person who believes Jesus Christ had no existence till he appeared on our earth, whilst a trinitarian maintains, that he existed with the Father from all eternity. What possible connection can he discern between these opinions and the subject of government?

In order to determine whether the supreme power should be vested in king, lords, and commons, as in England, in an assembly of nobles, as in Venice, or in a house of representatives, as in America or France, must we first decide upon the person of Christ? I should imagine we might as well apply to astronomy first, to learn whether the earth flattens at the poles. He explains what he means by vacating the rule of faith in Christ, when he charges the unitarians with a partial denial at least, of the inspiration of the Scripture, particularly the Epistles of St. Paul. But however clear the inspiration of the Scriptures may be, as no one pleads for the inspiration of civil governors, the deference which is due to the first, as coming from God, can be no reason for an unlimited submission to the latter. Yet this is Mr. Clayton’s argument, and it runs thus. Every opposition to Scripture is criminal, because it is inspired, and therefore every resistance to temporal rulers is criminal, though they are not inspired.

The number of passages in Paul’s Epistles which treat of civil government is small; the principal of them have been examined, and whether they are inspired or not, has not the remotest relation to the question before us. The inspiration of an author adds weight to his sentiments, but makes no alteration in his meaning; and unless Mr. Clayton can show that Paul inculcates unlimited submission, the belief of his inspiration can yield no advantage to his cause. Amongst those parties of Christians who have maintained the inspiration of the Scriptures in its utmost extent, the number of such as have inferred from them the doctrine of passive obedience has been extremely small; it is, therefore, ridiculous to impute the rejection of this tenet by unitarians to a disbelief of plenary inspiration. It behooves Mr. Clayton to point out, if he is able, any one of the unitarians who ever imagined that Paul means to recommend unlimited obedience; for till that is the case, it is plain their political opinions cannot have arisen from any contempt of that apostle’s authority.

The knowledge and study of the Scriptures, far from favouring the pretensions of despotism, have almost ever diminished it, and been attended with a proportional increase of freedom. The union of Protestant princes preserved the liberties of the Germanic body when they were in danger of being overwhelmed by the victorious arm of Charles the Fifth; yet a veneration for the Scriptures, at a time when they had almost fallen into oblivion, and an appeal to their decisions in all points, was the grand characteristic of the new religion. If we look into Turkey, we shall find the least of that impatience under restraints which Mr. Clayton laments, of any place in the world, though Paul and his epistles are not much studied there.

There are not wanting reasons, which at first view, might induce us to conclude unitarianism was less favourable to the love of freedom than almost any other system of religious belief. If any party of Christians were ever free from the least tincture of enthusiasm, it is the unitarian; yet that passion has by every philosopher been judged friendly to liberty, and to its influence, though perhaps improperly, some of its most distinguished exertions have been ascribed. Hume and Bolingbroke, who were atheists, leaned towards arbitrary power. Owen, Howe, Milton, Baxter, some of the most devout and venerable characters that ever appeared, were warmly attached to liberty, and held sentiments on the subject of government as free and unfettered as Dr. Priestley. Thus every pretence for confounding the attachment to freedom with the sentiments of a religious party, is most abundantly confuted both from reason and from fact. The zeal unitarians have displayed in defence of civil and religious liberty, is the spirit natural to a minority, who are well aware they are viewed by the ecclesiastical powers with an unparalleled malignity and rancor. Let the dissenters at large remember they too are a minority, a great minority, and that they must look for their security from the same quarter, not from the compliments of bishops, or presents from maids of honour. [NOTE: Some of my readers perhaps need to be informed that I here allude to Mr. Martin, who, for similar services to those Mr. Clayton is now performing, has been considerably caressed by certain bishops, who have condescended to notice and to visit him. I think we do not read that Judas had any acquaintance with the high priests till he came to transact business with them.]

To abandon principles which the best and most enlightened men have in all ages held sacred, which the dissenters in particular have rendered themselves illustrious by defending, which have been sealed and consecrated by the blood of our ancestors, for no other reason than that the unitarians chance to maintain them, would be a weakness of which a child might be ashamed! Whoever may think fit to take up the gauntlet iu the Socinian controversy will have my warmest good wishes; but let us not employ those arms against each other which were given us for our common defence.

Section IV.

On the Test Act.

Amidst all the wild eccentricities which, abounding in every part of this extraordinary publication, naturally diminish our wonder at anything such a writer may advance, I confess I am surprised at his declaring his wish for the continuance of the Test Act. This law, enacted in the latter end of the reign of Charles the Second, to secure the nation from popery, when it stood upon the brink of that precipice, is continued now that the danger no longer exists which first occasioned it, for the express purpose of preserving the church from the inroads of dissenters. That church, it must be remembered, existed for ages before it received any such protection; yet it is now the vogue to magnify its importance to that degree, that one would imagine it was its sole prop, whose removal would draw the whole fabric after it, or at least make it totter to its base. Whether these apprehensions were really entertained by the clergy who gave the signal for the commencement of hostilities on a late occasion, or whether they were only impelled by that illiberal tincture and fixed antipathy to all who differ from them, which hath ever marked their character, may be doubted; but to behold a dissenting minister joining with them in an unnatural warfare against his brethren, is a phenomenon so curious, that it prompts us to inquire into its cause. Let us hear his reasons. He and many others were convinced, he tells us, ” that some of the persons who applied “for the repeal were influenced by enmity against the doctrinal “articles of the established church, and they could not sacrifice “their pious regard to truth, though in a church they had separated from, to the policy of men, who, with respect to God our Saviour, only consult how they may cast him down from his Excellency.” When we hear the clergy exclaim that their church is in danger, we pretty well understand what they mean; they speak broad, as Mr. Burke says, and intend no more than that its emoluments are endangered; but when a serious dissenter expresses his pious regard to the doctrines of the church, it is the truth of those articles he must be supposed to have in view. Let us consider for a moment what advantage the Test Act is capable of yielding them. All those who qualify for civil offices, by a submission to this law, consist of two classes of people; they are either persons who are attached to the articles of the church, from whom, therefore, no danger could accrue; or they are persons who have signified their assent to doctrines which they inwardly disapprove, and who have qualified themselves for trust by a solemn act of religious deception. It is this latter class alone, it should be remembered, whom the Test Act can at all influence, and thus the only security this celebrated law can afford the articles of the church, is founded in a flagrant violation of truth in the persons who become their guarantees. Every attempt that has been made to uphold religion by the civil arm, has reflected disgrace upon its authors; but of all that are recorded in the history of the world, perhaps this is the most absurd in its principle, and the least effectual in its operation. For the truth of sacred mysteries in religion, it appeals to the most corrupt principles of the human heart, and to those only; for no one can be tempted by the Test Act to profess an attachment to the doctrines of the church, till he has been already allured by the dignity or emolument of a civil office. By compelling all who exercise any function in the state from the person who aspires to its highest distinctions, to those who fill the meanest offices in it, to profess that concurrence in religious opinions which is known never to exist, it is adapted, beyond any other human invention, to spread amongst all orders of men a contempt for sacred institutions, to enthrone hypocrisy, and reduce deception to a system! The truth of any set of opinions can only be perceived by evidence; but what evidence can anyone derive from the mere mechanical action of receiving bread and wine at the hands of a parish priest? He who believes them already needs not to be initiated by any such ceremony; and by what magic touch those simple elements are to convert the unbeliever, our author, who is master of so many secrets, has not condescended to explain. He will not pretend to impute the first spread of these doctrines in the infancy of the Christian religion, or their revival at the Reformation, to any such means, since he imagines he can trace them in the New Testament. It is strange if that evidence, which was powerful enough to introduce them where they were unknown, is not sufficient to uphold them where they are already professed and believed. At least, the Test Act, it must be confessed, has yielded them no advantage, for they have been controverted with more acrimony, and admitted by a smaller number of persons, since that law was enacted, than in any period preceding.

Were the removal of this test to overthrow the establishment itself, a consequence at the same time in the highest degree improbable, the articles of the church, if they are true, would remain unendangered, their evidence would continue unimpaired, an appeal to the inspired writings from which they profess to be derived would be open, the liberty of discussion would be admitted in as great an extent as at present; this difference only would occur, that an attachment to them would no longer be suspected of flowing from corrupt and sinister motives. They would cease to be with the clergy the ladder of promotion, the cant of the pulpit, the ridicule of the schools. The futility of this or any other law, as a security to religious doctrines, may be discerned from this single reflection, that in the national church its own articles have, for a length of time, been either treated with contempt, or maintained with little sincerity and no zeal; whilst amongst the dissenters, where they have had no such aids, they have found a congenial soil, and continue to flourish with vigour.

On the political complexion of this test, as it does not fall so properly within my present view, I shall content myself with remarking, that harmless as it may appear at first sight, it carries in it the seeds of all the persecutions and calamities which have ever been sustained on a religious account. It proscribes not an individual who has been convicted of a crime, but a whole party, as unfit to be trusted by the community to which they belong; and if this stigma can be justly fixed on any set of men, it ought not to stop here, or anywhere, short of the actual excision of those who are thus considered as rotten and incurable members of the political body. In annexing to religious speculation the idea of political default, the principle of this law would justify every excess of severity and rigour. If we are the persons it supposes, its indulgence is weak and contemptible; if we are of a different description, the nature of its pretensions is so extraordinary as to occasion serious alarm, and call aloud for its repeal.

Mr, Clayton, indeed, calls this, and similar laws, a restraint very prudently imposed upon those who dissent from the established religion. This restraint, however, is no less than a political annihilation, debarring them, though their talents were ever so splendid, from mingling in the counsels, or possessing any share in the administration of their country. With that natural relish for absurdity which characterizes this author, he imagines they have justly incurred this evil for dissenting from an erroneous religion.

He tells us, in the course of his sermon, that the grand “principle of separation from the church lies in the unworldly nature of our Saviour’s kingdom.” This reason for separation implies, that any attempt to blend worldly interests or policy with the constitution of a church is improper; but how could this be done more effectually than by rendering the profession of its articles a preliminary step to every kind of civil pre-eminence? Yet this abuse, which in his own estimation is so enormous as to form the great basis of separation, he wishes to perpetuate; and all things considered, hopes “that which is at rest will not be disturbed.” In another part of his discourse, he asks what temporalities has the church of Christ to expect? It is the mother of harlots, which says, “I sit a queen, and shall see no sorrow.” Would any one imagine this was the language of a man, who, in pleading for a Test Act, has rested the support of his creed on those very temporalities he affects so much to disdain, and has committed his religion to the arms of that mother of harlots to be reared and nourished! When speaking of the Test Act in the seventh page of his discourse, he thus expresses himself: “Surely the cross of Christ ought not to be insulted by persons eager to press into the temple of Mammon.” Who could treat it with more poignant severity than is couched in this declaration? Yet this is the language of a person who desires its continuance. In truth, his representations on this subject are pregnant with such contradictions, and rise above each other in so singular a gradation of absurdity, as will not be easily conceived, and perhaps hath scarce ever been equaled. At the very outset of his sermon, he declares, “Whenever the Gospel is secularized it is debased and misrepresented, and in proportion to the quantity of foreign infusions is the efficacy of this saving health diminished.” But human ingenuity would be at a loss to contrive a method of secularizing the Gospel more completely, than by rendering it the common passport of all who aspire to civil distinctions. I am really weary of exposing the wild and extravagant incoherence of such a reasoner. From a man who, professing to be the apologist of his party, betrays its interests, and exhibits its most illustrious members to reproach; who, himself a dissenter, applauds the penalties which the hierarchy has inflicted as a “prudent restraint;” who, with the utmost poignance, censures a law which he solemnly invokes the legislature to perpetuate; and proposes to secure the truths of religion, by the “profanation of its “sacraments,” by “debasing the Gospel, and insulting the cross;” anything may be expected but consistence and decency. When such an author assures us he was not impelled by vanity to publish, we may easily give him credit; but he should remember, though it may be a virtue to subdue vanity, it is base to extinguish shame. The tear which, he tells us, started from the eyes of his audience, we will hope, for their honour, was an effusion of regret, natural to his friends, on hearing him deliver sentiments which they considered as a disgrace to himself, and a calumny on his brethren. His affecting to pour contempt upon Dr. Price, whose talents and character were revered by all parties, and to hold him up as the corrupter of the dissenters, will not fail to awaken the indignation of every generous mind. Whether they were greater friends to their country, whose pride and oppression scattered the flames of discord across the Atlantic [in America], poured desolation into the colonies, dismembered the empire, and involved us in millions of debt; or the man, who, with a warning voice, endeavoured to avert those calamities; posterity will decide.

He gives us a pompous enumeration of the piety, learning, and talents of a large body of his brethren who concur with him in a disapprobation of the theological and political tenets of the unitarians. The weakness of mingling them together has been shown already; but if these great and eminent men, whom the world never heard of before, possess that zeal for their religion they pretend, let them meet their opponents on the open field of controversy, where they may display their talents and prowess to somewhat more advantage than in skulking behind a consecrated altar.

There are many particulars, in the address and sermon, of an extraordinary complexion, which I have not noticed at all, as it was not my intention to follow the author step by step, but rather to collect his scattered representations into some leading points of view. For the same reason, I make no remarks on his barbarous imagery; or his style, everywhere incoherent and incorrect, sometimes indecent, which cannot fail of disgusting every reader of taste. In a rude daubing peculiar to himself, where, in ridicule of Dr. Priestley, he has grouped together a foreigner, a ship, and cargo of drugs, he has unfortunately sketched his own likeness, except in the circumstance of the ship, with tolerable accuracy; for, without the apology of having been shipped into England, he is certainly a foreigner in his native tongue, and his publication will be allowed to be a drug.

Had he known to apply the remark with which his address commences, on the utility of accommodating instruction to the exigence of times, he would have been aware that this is not a season for drawing off the eyes of mankind from political objects. They were, in fact, never turned towards them with equal ardour, and we may venture to affirm they will long continue to take that direction. An attention to the political aspect of the world is not now the fruit of an idle curiosity, or the amusement of a dissipated and frivolous mind, but is awakened and kept alive by occurrences as various as they are extraordinary. There are times when the moral world seems to stand still; there are others when it seems impelled towards its goal with an accelerated force. The present is a period more interesting, perhaps, than any which has been known in the whole flight of time. The scenes of Providence thicken upon us so fast, and are shifted with so strange a rapidity, as if the great drama of the world were drawing to a close.[Note:*] Events have taken place of late, and revolutions have been effected, which, had they been foretold a very few years ago,, would have been viewed as visionary and extravagant; and their influence is yet far from being spent. Europe never presented such a spectacle before, and it is worthy of being contemplated with the profoundest attention by all its inhabitants. The empire of darkness and of despotism has been smitten with a stroke which has sounded through the universe. When we see whole kingdoms, after reposing for centuries on the lap of their rulers, start from their slumber, the dignity of man rising up from depression, and tyrants trembling on their thrones, who can remain entirely indifferent, or fail to turn his eye towards a theatre so august and extraordinary! These are a kind of throes and struggles of nature, to which it would be a sullenness to refuse our sympathy. Old foundations are breaking up; new edifices are rearing. Institutions which have been long held in veneration as the most sublime refinements of human wisdom and policy, which age hath cemented and confirmed, which power hath supported, which eloquence hath conspired to embellish, and opulence to enrich, are falling fast into decay. New prospects are opening on every side of such amazing variety and extent as to stretch farther than the eye of the most enlightened observer can reach.

[Note *] This glowing picture, as accurately descriptive of recent events as of those it was intended to portray, might tempt us almost to fancy that, after the revolution of a cycle or forty years, time had brought us back to the same state of things.—Editor.

Some beneficial effects appear to have taken place already, sufficient to nourish our most sanguine hope of benefits much more extensive. The mischief and folly of wars begin to be understood, and that mild and liberal system of policy adopted which has ever, indeed, been the object of prayer to the humane and the devout, but has hitherto remained utterly unknown in the cabinets of princes. As the mind naturally yields to the impression of objects which it contemplates often, we need not wonder, if, amidst events so extraordinary, the human character itself should appear to be altering and improving apace. That fond attachment to ancient institutions, and blind submission to opinions already received, which has ever checked the growth of improvement, and drawn on the greatest benefactors of mankind danger or neglect, is giving way to a spirit of bold and fearless investigation. Man seems to be becoming more erect and independent. He leans more on himself, less on his fellow-creatures. He begins to feel a consciousness in a higher degree of personal dignity, and is less enamoured of artificial distinctions. There is some hope of our beholding that simplicity and energy of character which marks his natural state, blended with the humanity, the elegance, and improvement of polished society.

The events which have already taken place, and the further changes they forbode, will open to the contemplative of every character innumerable sources of reflection. To the philosopher they present many new and extraordinary facts, where his penetration will find ample scope in attempting to discover their cause, and to predict their effects. He will have an opportunity of viewing mankind in an interesting situation, and of tracing the progress of opinion through channels it has rarely flowed in before. The politician will feel his attention powerfully awakened on seeing new maxims of policy introduced, new institutions established, and such a total alteration in the ideas of a great part of the world, as will oblige him to study the art of government as it were afresh. The devout mind will behold in these momentous changes the finger of God, and, discerning in them the dawn of that glorious period in which wars will cease, and anti-Christian tyranny shall fall, will adore that unerring wisdom whose secret operation never fails to conduct all human affairs to their proper issue, and impels the great actors on that troubled theatre to fulfill, when they least intend it, the counsels of heaven and the predictions of its prophets.

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BIOGRAPHY OF THE REV. ROBERT HALL 1764-1831

Adding this biography in preparation of adding articles written by Mr. Hall to the website in the next few days or weeks.

Rev. Robert Hall Statue This statue in Sicilian marble, standing on a high Cornish granite pedestal, was unveiled on 2 November 1871 by the sculptor, John Birnie Philip. It stands in De Montfort Square. Source: http://www.leicester.gov.uk

Rev. Robert Hall Statue This statue in Sicilian marble, standing on a high Cornish granite pedestal, was unveiled on 2 November 1871 by the sculptor, John Birnie Philip. It stands in De Montfort Square. Source: http://www.leicester.gov.uk

“Mr. Hall, has like Bishop Taylor, the eloquence of an orator, the fancy of a poet, the acuteness of a schoolman, the profoundness of a philosopher, and the piety of a saint.”—Note to Dr. Parr’s “Spital [Hospital] Sermon.”

To a devout mind, the present aspect of Christendom presents a subject of sorrowful contemplation, when it is seen split into sects, and divided into parties, each frowning defiance on the other; instead of being united into one indivisible and harmonious society. And it has been asked with some asperity, whether there be not something essentially defective in Revelation, if men can draw so many conclusions from the same premises? But the question has assuredly been put without consideration. The defect is not in Revelation, because that is like its author, fall and perfect; it lies in man, who is unable to comprehend, at present, truth in all its purity and in all its force. There is, however, a time coming, when the veil will be removed from the understandings of all men, when they shall see eye to eye, and be all of one mind, perfect in knowledge, and panting after higher degrees of holiness. Until, however, that time shall arrive, it is no doubt one of the inscrutable arrangements of God, (who plans all things after the counsel of his will,) that differences should exist. It is the same in divine, as in human knowledge; truth is elicited by discussion, and the more the principles of men are sifted, the more likely are they to become wise; provided they seek after truth with a sincere desire to find it, and with a humble dependence upon the teachings of the Spirit of God. But such, alas! is the folly of man, and so prone is the mind to dogmatize, and not to inquire, that almost all the discussions which have hitherto divided the religious world, been have carried on, not, as it appears, for the purpose of elucidating truth, but to establish certain opinions. Men have formed creeds for themselves and then gone to the bible for proofs to support them; instead of appealing to the bible first, and making the word of God the rule of conduct, and the expounder of doctrine. Such proceedings remind us of the inconceivable stupidity of those whom the prophet stigmatizes, as forsaking the fountain of living waters, to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, which hold no water.

Robert Hall (2 May 1764 – 21 February 1831), the son of the Rev. Robert Hall, author of “A Help for Zion’s Travellers,” and several sermons, was born at Arnsby, in Leicestershire, where his father was a baptist minister. Early in life, the remarkable genius of Mr. Hall burst forth, so that at nine years of age, he had read through and comprehended those profound metaphysical treatises of president Edwards, on the Will, and Affections. At this early age, he was placed under the able tuition of Mr. Ryland, of Northampton, from whose care he was subsequently removed to the Bristol Institution, where his talents and attention to study, obtained the notice and particular regard of Dr. Evans the president. At seventeen years old, Mr. H. entered himself a student at King’s College, Aberdeen, where he again highly distinguished himself, by his diligent attention to study, and the ease with which he obtained the academical honours. Here he became acquainted with Sir James Mackintosh, and several other distinguished men, and was honoured by the confidence and esteem of Dr. Campbell, and the professors, whose lectures he attended.

It appears that he preached at various places, while at College, and always during the vacations. In his twentieth year he took his degree of master of arts, and shortly after became assistant to Dr. Evans, both in the academy, and in the ministry.

At this time, that awful affliction which deprived the church of his labours overtook him, and he was removed by his friends to Leicestershire; but, being sufficiently recovered, in the year 1791, he became the successor of the celebrated and erring Robert Robinson, at Cambridge. When Mr. Hall accepted the charge of this church, the state of religion was at a low ebb amongst the people—too many had imbibed the sentiments of their late pastor, and almost all possessed only the form of godliness. But soon after the settlement of Mr. Hall, genuine religion revived, the numbers of church members increased, and an ardent and growing attachment to the doctrines of vital godliness was evidenced amongst the people.

It was here that Mr. Hall commenced as author, and his first step was a bold one, proving his independence of spirit and his unconquerable aversion to slavish doctrines of any kind. That astounding event, the French revolution, had agitated all parties in England, and great was the contention, and fierce was the spirit which prevailed. Mr. John Clayton, the late minister of the Weigh House, fearing that the interests of religion were likely to be endangered by the violence of politics, published a sermon, recommending the Dissenters to abstain altogether from political discussions: this sermon contained nothing new, but much that was objectionable, for the doctrines of passive obedience, and non-resistance were unreservedly inculcated. This roused the indignation of Mr. Hall, and, in a reply, alike distinguished for the purity and eloquence of its style, he vindicated the right of the Dissenters to rise, in political discussion, by shewing that Christianity was consistent with the love of freedom.

The profound argument, and solidity of principle, which characterized this work, were never attempted to be shaken by any reply, and Mr. Hall, encouraged by the success which had attended his efforts, afterwards expanded the pamphlet into a small volume, and published it under the title of “An Apology for the Freedom of the Press.”—This ran rapidly through six editions, and did much good in removing from the Dissenters, that obloquy which had been cast upon them, as a body, for the intemperate conduct of one or two of their members. The work was highly spoken of, by the reviews, and extorted admiration even from its enemies.

During this time, the Revolution in France, which had opened with such fair prospects for that nation, and with such magnificent promises of good to others, had taken a disastrous and fatal change. The sun of freedom had scarcely risen ere it set in blood. Scenes the most portentous, and events the most appalling, were daily occurring. The absence of all religion in the church of Rome, at the time the revolution burst upon its bigoted, licentious, and infidel priests, and the prevalence of a philosophy, deadly and cheerless in its nature, added to the natural ferocity of men a tenfold vigour.—They accordingly desecrated the altar, overturned the throne, broke through the social compact, violated all the decencies and charities of life, dishonoured themselves by lusts too gross even to name—and slaughtered all who opposed their wishes. In short, they gave themselves up to all manner of wickedness; and, to crown their depravity, denied the existence of God, and wrote upon the tomb, that death was an eternal sleep!

It was not, however, to be expected that all these things could pass in France without, in some degree, affecting us. Accordingly, we find that the licentious principles and unhallowed doctrines of the French infidels reached England, and were eagerly embraced, not only by the higher classes of society, but by almost all the literary men of the time. To counteract the pernicious tendency, arising from the diffusion of such speculations, Mr. Hall preached and published his sermon on “The Influence of Modern Infidelity on Society.” This sermon instantly procured him the approbation of the wise and good of all parties, and it’s amazing popularity, no doubt, had all the effect its excellent author desired. Its power may be conceived, when it is said, that it drew down upon Mr. Hall repeated and virulent attacks, from men who had embraced the speculative opinions of Voltaire and others. Amongst more insignificant persons, Anthony Robinson, and the celebrated Godwin, both apostates, from the religion which Mr. Hall so triumphantly defended, may be named as those who attempted, but miserably failed, to answer Mr. Hall’s sermon.

In 1803, appeared the sermon, preached on the fast day at Bristol; and, shortly after its publication, Mr. Hall was again afflicted and obliged to suspend all public duty. In this lamentable state he continued some time, but under judicious treatment, his mind gradually regained its great powers, and he was invited to become the pastor of the Baptist Church at Leicester, which, after some deliberation, he accepted. At that time, genuine religion was almost extinct amongst the members, who were poor, and but few in number. The chapel would only contain about three hundred people, and it was then seldom filled, but almost immediately after Mr. Hall’s settlement, the number of members became greater, and the congregation so much increased, that it was found necessary three times to enlarge the chapel; so that now it will seat upwards of one thousand one hundred persons. Here, for upwards of twenty-five years, Mr. Hall continued to labour affectionately—loved by his flock, esteemed and honoured by the people of Leicester, and revered by the clergy and dissenting ministers in the neighborhood. In particular he became intimately acquainted with the late venerable Mr. Robinson, the vicar of St. Mary’s, and this friendship was only dissolved by his death, when Mr. Hall pronounced one of the finest and most eloquent eulogiums on his character, which the English language presents.

During his residence at Leicester, Mr. Hall published his Sermons on the Discouragements and Supports of the Christian Ministry—the Advantage of Knowledge to the lower classes.—On the death of the Princess Charlotte,—On the Holy Spirit, and all his works on Open Communion, besides several Reviews, and a new edition of his Apology.

In the year 1825, Dr. Ryland, the president of the Bristol Academy, and pastor of Broadmead Meeting, died, and Mr. Hall was unanimously chosen to succeed him in both offices. This he, for some time, declined, but at last a sense of duty to the entire connection, prevailed over private feeling, and after a struggle between pastor and people, honourable to both, Mr. H. removed, in March 1826, to Bristol, where, as in every other place where he resided, religion began to revive. This congregation is now on the increase.

It now remains for us to consider Mr. Hall both as a preacher and a writer. In the former character there is very little to remark upon. His appearance in the pulpit is good, his face is plain, but his forehead denotes great reasoning and imaginative powers. His voice is thin, and at times tremulous, and seems incapable of conveying the deep emotions of his heart. His action is very appropriate and chaste. He is powerful in prayer, his great talents, his accurate acquaintance with scripture, his knowledge of the wants of man, his clear views and deep conviction of the truth of the gospel, enable him to approach the footstool of Jehovah with meekness and confidence; with sorrow for sin, mingled with hallowed emotions of holy joy at the abounding mercies of God as displayed in the person, offices, and merits of Christ, as the redeemer of mankind.

His manner is peculiarly earnest and solemn, and tends much to impress on his hearers the preacher’s belief in the great truths upon which he dilates, while the energy with which he delivers his most splendid discourses chains down the attention of all. It appears to us impossible for the most careless and indifferent mind to remain inattentive while Mr. Hall is preaching, for although he uses no arts to gain attention, yet the exquisite variety of his language, the delicate and beautiful gleams of imagery with which his most ordinary sermons abound, are pleasing to the taste, and tend much to recommend religion to those who would revolt from its truths if presented in any other garb.

The predominant features in Mr. Hall’s printed sermons is the great imaginative power which they display;—everything seems steeped in the exhaustless beauties of his wonderful mind ; all that orators have conceived of natural or artificial beauty, or poets imagined of force, grace, and power, are there combined, and in so easy a manner as to prove that the loftiest themes, the most exquisite language, the choicest images, are those with which Mr. Hall is most familiar.

But what proves his wonderful mastery over his varied and extensive knowledge, is the clearness and simplicity of his, style, which is so forcible as to present every idea visibly to the reader, so elegant as not to be improved; abounding with imagery, classical allusions, and felicitous turns of expression, and yet the least unencumbered with its own beauty of any which has ever been written. It possesses all the idiomatic grace of Addison, the terseness of Swift, and the strength of Johnson, without the feebleness of the one, the vulgarity of the other, or the ponderosity of the third. What Johnson said of Addison’s style, may be more properly applied to Mr. Hall’s, ” Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.”

An eminent critic of the present day, speaking of one of Mr. Hall’s sermons, says, “The diction displays an unlimited command and an exquisite choice of language; a vocabulary formed on the basis of Addison’s, but admitting whatever is classical in the richer literature of the present age, and omitting everything that is low or pedantic. The copious use of scriptural language, so eminently appropriate to theological writings, bestows upon the style of this writer an awful sanctity. The uncouthness and vulgarity of some religious authors, who are driven to employ the very words and phrases of scripture, from an ignorance of other words and phrases, and an incapacity to conceive and express a revealed truth in any form but that of the authorized version of the Bible, has co-operated with an irreligious spirit, to bring this important resource of theological eloquence into great disrepute. The skilful manner in s which it is employed by Mr. Hall, may restore its credit. Quotations and allusions, when borrowed from profane literature, are much admired. There is nothing, we think, to render them less admirable when borrowed from holy writ. If properly selected, they possess the same merit of appositeness in one case as in the other; they may be at least equal in rhetorical beauty; and the character of holiness and mystery which is peculiar to them, at once fills the imagination, and warms the heart. The same purity of taste, which appears in Mr. Hall’s choice of words, is equally apparent in the forms of expression into which they are combined. The turn of his phrases is gracefully idiomatic, disdaining the harsh and usurped authority of those grammarians, who would condemn our best writers at the tribunal of analogy, and compel us to surrender the freedom to which we have a prescriptive and immemorial claim, for the sake of an ostentatious dignity of precision.

“There is one other particular in which the style of this writer is perhaps superior to any other,—the construction of his periods, or that which corresponds in prose, to what in poetry is called the versification. In this, as in former discourses, Mr. Hall appears to have employed every elegant and harmonious form which the language admits; always gratifying, often ravishing the ear, but never cloying it;—in the midst of his richest combinations, or his simplest strains, perfectly easy and unaffected,— varying his style with every shade of his sentiment, and converting what is usually but a mechanical vehicle into an expressive and imitative music.”

As an orator, we know of no one either in the present, or at any former period, who surpasses Mr. Hall. He possesses within himself, all the genuine elements which constitute an eloquent and impassioned speaker. In imagination he is equal to Burke, and his reasoning powers place him on a level with Fox, while he excels both, in the purity and energy of his style. We are not acquainted with any oration in the whole range of literature, which is at all equal to his sermon, “On the Present Crisis.” The whole discourse abounds with the most just and patriotic sentiments imbued with Christianity. The peroration is as sublime, and as heart stirring, as any of the strains of Tyrteus.

The discourse on the Influence of Modern Infidelity is a masterpiece of reasoning, the preacher has laid bare the sources of unbelief and traced the workings of infidelity, in all its ramifications upon society, and in so doing he has presented a picture, which appalls the heart, and makes it turn with disgust from the wickedness of its species.

That on the Horrors of War, is, as a composition, not to be excelled, the author brings before the mind’s eye, scenes terrible in their nature, and proves that of all the curses which God can inflict upon man, the greatest scourge is war. It would be well for every Christian to study attentively this discourse, until he had his convictions of the unlawfulness of war, so strongly fixed in his mind as to induce him to act upon the mild and benevolent principles of his religion.

Our limits will not allow us to enumerate all Mr. Hall’s Discourses. We cannot however pass over, unnoticed, his Sermon on the death of the Princess Charlotte; this we consider to be the finest of all his Sermons, when taken as a whole. It enters into a philosophical investigation of the causes of our sorrow; ascertains why we feel more sympathy for suffering greatness than for ordinary cases; shows the instability and vanity of all earthly things, in a most powerful and affecting manner ; directs the hearer to the rock of salvation; and improves the melancholy event, by enforcing upon the reader’s attention his own mortality. The sentiments of the public fully accord with ours as to its merits, for it rapidly passed through fourteen large editions, and is still read with intense pleasure, as a most beautiful and striking composition. Besides the publications we have noticed, Mr. Hall has written several works on the term of Communion; and we rejoice to see that his truly Christian sentiments are very largely diffused. All his opponents have been unable to maintain their ground against him, and, with one exception, (that of the venerable Mr. Kinghorn) have proved that their cause is desperate indeed, when they resort to such unsociable arguments, and mix them up with personal abuse.

Mr. Hall has also contributed several articles to the Eclectic Review, two of these will be long remembered for the powerful effect they produced at the time of their appearance. We allude to the examination of the paper entitled “Zeal without Innovation,” and the “Life of Lindsay,” by Belsham. In both these Reviews Mr. Hall proved his devoted attachment to the truth of the gospel, and evidenced controversial powers of a high order. We should think that neither the author of “Zeal without Innovation,” or Mr. Belsham, would ever again wish to encounter so formidable an adversary.

Source: The Christian Recorder: A Religious and Literary Journal, Issues 1-25; Published 1829

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The TEA Party Patriots: Are They The New Whig Party?

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859)

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859)

Whig Party: It seems to me that when I look back on our history I can discern a great party which has, through many generations, preserved its identity; a party often depressed, never extinguished; a party which, though often tainted with the faults of the age, has always been in advance of the age; a party which, though guilty of many errors and some crimes, has the glory of having established our civil and religious liberties on a firm foundation: and of that party I am proud to be a member. It was that party which on the great question of monopolies stood up against Elizabeth. It was that party which in the reign of James the First organized the earliest parliamentary opposition, which steadily asserted the privileges of the people, and wrested prerogative after prerogative from the Crown. It was that party which forced Charles the First to relinquish the ship-money. It was that party which destroyed the Star Chamber and the High Commission Court. It was that party which, under Charles the Second, carried the Habeas Corpus Act, which effected the Revolution, which passed the Toleration Act, which broke the yoke of a foreign Church in your country, and which saved Scotland from the fate of unhappy Ireland. It was that party which reared and maintained the constitutional throne of Hanover against the hostility of the Church and of the landed aristocracy of England. It was that party which opposed the war with America and the war with the French Republic ; which imparted the blessings of our free Constitution to the Dissenters; and which, at a later period, by unparalleled sacrifices and exertions, extended the same blessings to the Roman Catholics. To the Whigs of the seventeenth century we owe it that we have a House of Commons. To the Whigs of the nineteenth century we owe it that the House of Commons has been purified. The abolition of the slave-trade, the abolition of colonial slavery, the extension of popular education, the mitigation of the rigour of the penal code, all, all were effected by that party; and of that party, I repeat, I am a member. I look with pride on all that the Whigs have done for the cause of human freedom and of human happiness. I see them now hard pressed, struggling with difficulties, but still fighting the good fight. At their head I see men who have inherited the spirit and the virtues, as well as the blood, of old champions and martyrs of freedom. To those men I propose to attach myself. Delusion may triumph; but the triumphs of delusion are but for a day. We may be defeated; but our principles will gather fresh strength from defeats. Be that, however, as it may, my part is taken. While one shred of the old banner is flying, by that banner will I at least be found.

Lord Macaulay:
Speech at Edinburgh Election, 29 May, 1839.

It was also the Whigs in America that fought for our Freedoms and Liberty in the Revolutionary War.

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

RichardPriceAmerica

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.