Glory be to God! and here, throughout the land, far and near, through all our homes, be peace, good will and love. As one family, as one people, as one nation, we keep the birthday of our rights, our liberty, our power and strength. Let us do this with eyes and hearts raised to the Fountain of all life, the Beginning of all glory and might; with words of praise and thanks to God who rules on high; for He is the living God and steadfast power, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be even unto the end. Wherefore as He is our strength and hope, let all begin and all go on, first and ever, with glory to God Most High. There are great things to think about to-day; the growth of the people, unparalleled in history; the vastness of their empire, a wonder of the latter days; the bands by which the mighty frame is held together—so slight to the eye, so hard to break; the many races welded into one; the marvelous land, with its oceans on all sides, its lakes themselves like lesser oceans, its icebergs and glaciers, its torrid deserts, its mountain ranges and rich, fat valley land, its climates of all kinds, its rivers, which would have seemed of all but fabulous length, its wealth in all that rock, and earth, and water can supply; and then the people—active, able, full of enterprise and force, acting with the power of a myriad of giants, speaking one language, living under one flag, bound by common interests, and, as to-day, kindled by one common feeling of devotion, pride, joy, hope, sure there is enough to think about to-day, enough to fill the soul and almost make the head giddy. But let these things be spoken of elsewhere; let others dwell upon them. We have a definite share in the national celebration: let us not forget our part, which is to lift to God a great voice which He shall hear amid all the other voices of the hour. Why do we gather here? Is it to recount the praises of men and their mighty achievements? Is it to make display of our national greatness, to tell over our victories and conquests in divers scenes of conflict, to celebrate the names and acts of chieftains, statesmen, and rulers of the land, of brave and patient people who gave fortune, life, and sacred honor to the State, of any of those who deserve remembrance to-day? Let this be done elsewhere, as is right and fitting; let men stand up when it is convenient, and set oration and address do honor to the dead and the living, point the moral of our history, hold up the ideals of patriotism, virtue, and unselfish love of home and native land.
But we must be about our Father’s business; we have other words to speak, deeper, further-reaching; our work here is to offer praise and glory to God; to bless Him in His relations to the nation as its Lord and King, as Ruler and Governor, as Providence, law-giver, and Judge. Without God nothing of what we properly value to-day could have been. Without God there could have been no nation, nor nation’s birthday. It is He that hath made us and kept us one. The office of the Church is to bless and sanctify the nation’s feast day. She cannot be indifferent nor unmoved. We are citizens of the earthly house as well as of the heavenly. We act in that double capacity in praising God Almighty, while with our brethren we keep the feast. And oh! what ground for thankfulness to-day. Think of the mighty hand that hath led us and upheld us through these hundred years—what it has done for us—what that right hand of the Most High hath wrought I look back to the humble beginnings—to the poor little Colonists with their scant store, and their modest ambitions; think of their long-suffering patience, and also of their honorable resolve not to submit to oppression and injustice; remember the band of men who met together, just one hundred years ago, to sign the Declaration, how they did it—not, as popular legends tell us, with transports of enthusiasm and amid bell-ringing and general jubilation, but in secret session of Congress. With an awful sense of what it meant. With a vision of the gibbet and the axe before their eyes, and well aware of the toil, and blood, and grief that it must cost to maintain their manly attitude before the world. Think with what dread and sinking of heart, with what tears and partings, with what conflicts of spirit, and what doubts as to the duty of the hour, the foundations were laid; and let us have a tender heart toward the old fathers of the State, the men who took their lives in their hands, and so brought the new nation to the birth, and then amid what untold trials and sufferings they carried on their war! Think of the great hearts ready to break, of the starved and ragged armies with that mighty spirit under their hunger-worn ribs, more frequently retreating than advancing, wasted by sickly summer heat, and often in winter standing barefoot in snow; that squalid, sorrowful, anxious force working their sure way through cloud, and storm, and darkness to the victory, perfect and finished, at the end. It is touching to read the memorials of those days, and to think of all that has come since then; how we are entered into their labors, and are at peace because they went through all that; they sowed in tears and we reap in joy. So then let there be thanks to God for the past, out of which He has evoked the present grandeur of our State, and let us remember what we owe to those who went before, for a part of that debt is obvious; to imitate the virtues and return to the simple mind, the pure intention, the unselfish devotion to the public weal which marked the founders of the Republic. It is a far cry to those days, but there still shine the stars which guided them on their way, the light of heaven illuminating the earth, the bright beacons of honesty, truth, simplicity, sincerity, self-sacrifice, under which, as under an astrological sign, the little one was born. Pray heaven those holy lights of morality and public virtue may not, for us, already have utterly faded away. Surely it. is a marvelous thing to see how nations rise and grow; how they gather strength; how they climb to the meridian of their noonday light and glory; how they blaze awhile, invested with their fullest splendors at that point, and thence how they decline and rush downward into the evening, and the night, and the darkness of a long, dead sleep, whence none can awake any more. This history is not made without God. His hand is in it all. His decrees on nation and State are just, in perfect justice, as on each one of us men. And must it all be told over again in our case? Is there no averting the common doom? Must each people but repeat the monotonous history of those who went before? God only knows how long the course will be till all shall be accomplished. But certainly we, the citizens, may do something; we may live pure, honest, sober lives, for the love of country also, as well as for the love of Christ. We may, by taking good heed to ourselves, help to purify the whole nation, and so obtain a lengthening of our tranquility. We want much more of this temper; we need to feel that each man helps, in his own way, to save or to destroy his country. Every good man is a reason in God’s eyes why He should spare the nation and prolong its life; every bad man, in his vicious, selfish, evil life, is a reason why God should break up the whole system to which that worthless, miserable being belongs.
If we love our country with a true, real love we shall show it by contributing in ourselves to the sum of collective righteousness what it may be in our power, aided by God’s grace, to give. They are not true men who have no thanks to bring to the Lord this day. They are not true men who simply shout and cry, and make noisy demonstration, and speak great swelling words, without reason, or reflection, or any earnest thought to duty, to God, and the State. From neither class can any good come; not from the senselessly uproarious, not from the livid and gloomy children of discontent. They were thoughtful, patriotic, self-sacrificing men who built this great temple of civil and religious liberty. By such men only can it be kept in repair and made to stand for ages and ages. No kingdom of this world can last forever, yet many endure to a great age. The old mother country, England, in her present constitutional form, is more than 800 years old—a good age, a grand age, with, we trust and pray, many bright centuries to come hereafter, as good, as fair. Let us remember that for us, as for all people, length of days and long life and peace depend on the use we make of our gifts, on the fidelity with which we discharge our mission. And that is the reason why every one of us has, in part, his country’s life in his own hands. But I detain you from the duty of the hour. We meet to praise not man, but God; to praise Him with a reasonable and devout purpose; to bless him for our first century, for this day which He permits us to see, for our homes, our liberties, our peace, our place among the powers of the earth. It is all from him, whatever good we have, and to him let us ascribe the honor and the glory. And let us say, with them of old time.
“Blessed art Thou, O Lord God of our fathers; and to be praised and exalted above all forever.
And Blessed is Thy glorious and holy name; and to be praised and exalted above all forever.
Blessed art Thou in the temple of Thine holy glory; and to be praised and glorified above all forever.
Blessed art Thou that beholdest the depths and sittest upon the cherubims; and to be praised and exalted above all forever.
Blessed art Thou in the glorious throne of thy kingdom; to be praised and glorified above all forever.
Blessed art Thou in the firmament of heaven; and above all to be praised and glorified forever.
Yea, let us bless the Most High, and praise and honor Him that liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.”See also: The Wisdom and Love of God as Shown by His Creation by Noah Webster THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876 INDIVIDUAL PURITY THE HOPE OF FREEDOM’S BLESSINGS by Charles Sprague 1791-1875 AMERICA! FAIREST OF FREEDOM’S DAUGHTERS by Jeremiah E. Rankin 1828-1903 Joseph Baldwin: Address 1892, to National Teachers Association in New York True American Patriotism Defined by Hon. Curtis Guild and H. F. Kinnerney 1876 A PRAYER FOR THE NATION by Rev. William Bacon Stevens July 4, 1876 THE GREAT AMERICAN REPUBLIC A CHRISTIAN STATE by Cardinal James Gibbons 1834-1921 THE GRAND MISSION OF AMERICA by Joseph H. Twitchell, July 4, 1876 SCORN TO BE SLAVES by Dr. Joseph Warren 1741-1775