December 1st, 1836. Rev. And Dear Sir:—
At a meeting of the vestry of St. Patrick’s Church, held last evening, the undersigned were appointed a committee to solicit a copy of your Thanksgiving Sermon for publication. We can assure you that a compliance will gratify the large audience attending upon that occasion.
Respectfully your Obedient servants,
Rev. George W. Cole.
Tecumseh, Mich., Dec. 13th, 1836, Gentlemen:—
The copy of my discourse which you have so kindly requested, I herewith submit to your disposal. I yield to your obliging request the more cheerfully, from the conviction that it has been prompted in a great measure by the kind regard entertained for me, by the large and respectable congregation before whom the discourse was delivered. Should the publication of it conduce in any degree to the moral or religious welfare of your interesting and thriving village, and of this com. munity, to whose kindness I am under many obligations, I shall be amply reward, ed for this humble production delivered by request before a promiseuous assembly of my fellow citizens, on a day of public praise and thanksgiving.
George W. Cole. To Dr. A. Cressy, And
Richard Townsend, Esqr.
“God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us. That thy ways may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. Let the people praise thee O God; let all the people praise thee.” Psalm, lxrii. 1,2,3.
I have selected this language, my brethren, as peculiarly appropriate to the occasion which has assembled us this morning—as expressive of the feelings and sentiments with which we should “come to appear before the Lord” to-day. To awaken such sentiments as are here expressed, and to form corresponding purposes of life, is the object for which we are now together.
The Governor of one of our states, in a recent proclamation, has expressed himself in terms so beautifully in unison with the language which I have just read from the inspired page, that I may be permitted here to cite it. ” Let our hearts” he says ” kindle with gratitude, at the survey of our civil and religious, our social and domestic enjoyments;” and after enumerating many of them, he continues—” and above all, that we are still enlightened by the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness, while multitudes of our race are still enveloped in moral darkness. And while we commemorate with thanksgiving these testimonials of God’s goodness, let us acknowledge with deep humility our own unworthiness, and in the name of our Redeemer, present our petitions for the continuance of Divine favors. In his name ‘ let us come boldly to the throne of grace’ and pray for the richest blessings both temporal and spiritual to descend upon our state and nation; especially that a healthful moral influence may extend through the length and breadth of our land, and that our favored country may shine forth among the nations, conspicuous in holiness, and be eminently instrumental in communicating throughout the world, a knowledge of the true God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
We have here a view of the design for which is set apart this day of public praise and thanksgiving. To such language, the full and united response of our hearts should be, ” God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us. That thy ways may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.”
This psalm and the one immediately before it are supposed to have been composed by David, on the occasion of his being finally established upon his throne, having been victorious over all his foreign enemies, and having subdued all intestine commotions, and established peace and tranquility, through all the borders of his kingdom. Psalms similar to those were often rehearsed by Jewish congregations at their festivals. And among them festivals were frequent, and were established by express divine appointment.— They had their ” feast of Tabernacles” commemorative of their sojourn in the wilderness.
They had their “feast of the Passover” when were celebrated their escape from Egyptian bondage, and the preservation of their first-born, on that night when the first-born of the Egyptians were destroyed.
The feast of Pentecost was their annual thanksgiving, when the signal mercies of God towards them as a nation, and especially his blessing upon the fruits of the earth, were commemorated with various demonstrations of joy.
One principal design for which God required his chosen people to observe certain appointed seasons as holy festivals was, to keep vividly before their minds the truth that Jehovah was their God—that “He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth,” and that ” every good and perfect gift cometh down from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning.”
The great end to be kept in view by us in the observance of religious festivals appointed by the civil authorities, is the public recognition of an overruling Providence—the acknowledging of God in all our ways, in our social relations and in our individual capacities—a simultaneous expression of dependence upon the great Parent of all, for our every enjoyment, civil and religious, social and individual. And it should excite our devout gratulations that a usage which, in its design, is so consonant with the revealed will of God, and which has received the sanction of so many ages, is gradually gaining ground in our own land, among a people so signally favored of the Lord. Blessed is that people whose devout public acknowledgments are, that the Lord is their God.
“Let the people praise thee O God; let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth bring forth her increase; and God, even our own God shall bless us. God shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.”
The psalm from which my text is taken is considered by some as a prayer, by others as a prophecy; but all christian commentators admit that it refers to the general diffusion of such blessings as we now enjoy. That which the Prophets “wrapt in holy vision,” saw in the far future, has become to us matter of actual observation and experience. Those blessings, the dim outline of which, viewed through the long lapse of ages, fired the heart and woke the glowing praise of the patriarch David, are distinctly seen by us, and felt and heard. God has been ” merciful to us” as a people, he has ” blessed us;” he has “caused his face to shine upon us.” The truth of these propositions will be readily admitted. But it is proper on the present occasion to enlarge upon them.
It will be perceived that it is not now my object to illustrate each particular clause of the text, nor to consider the whole in its primary and more direct application ; though it is justly applicable to the remarks of which it is now made the basis.
I shall, in the first place, advert to a few particulars, in which God has signally blessed us as a nation. Secondly, shall consider the bearing of our present position as a people upon the event of ‘God’s ways being made known upon earth, his saving health among all nations.”
1st. I am in the first place to advert, to some of the particulars in which God has signally blessed our nation.
Let us for a few moments transfer ourselves to a point in the history of the world, two or three centuries back. Why is it that at this late period all civilized nations are debarred from this immense continent? While we see the love of conquest still pouring the tide of its desolation’s upon the world—one despot demolishing the kingdom of another that he may extend over its ruins his own sway—the emperor of half the world eager to add to his territory a few acres more at the expense of the tears and blood of millions, the burnished arms of embattled nations gleaming in awful conflict for some petty province—while empire after empire rises, declines and disappears, the red man, without arms, without defence, without skill in war, remains in undisputed possession of this immense country.
While commerce from century to century enlarges her bounds, till her line extends from Britain to India, not one of her sails is seen nearing the shores of this land. Here the boundless forest still waves in all its native grandeur. Here the child of the wilderness, undisturbed by the onset of armies, and the overthrow of empires, on the other side of the great waters, pursues his game, voyages in his canoe, sings his war song, and dances around his council fire. This vast territory, these exhaustless mines, this fertile soil, these majestic rivers, these noble harbors are yet reserved for some great purpose known only to infinite wisdom—it is kept for some higher destiny than that to which the rest of the world has been allotted. The ambitious spoiler is not yet permitted to plant his desolating footsteps upon the bosom of this ” land of promise”—no spiritual despotism lifts its blighting rod over this fair heritage—no hand of rapacity fastens its iron grasp upon these countless uncoffered treasures.
Now why was it thus my brethren? Can we not discern the hand of a kind Providence in all this? Had this continent been discovered and colonized a few centuries earlier, when darkness, and superstition and tyranny held undisputed sway over nominally christian countries, what rank should we now have held among the nations of the earth? Italy, and Spain and Portugal and Mexico and South America may tell us.
Though at a point of view some two or three centuries back, an observer might not have been able to discover the reason why this country had been kept so long concealed from civilized nations, yet a sufficient reason is made obvious to us. It was that civil and religious freedom might be permitted to do its own work here without being obliged, first to demolish the fabric or to remove the rubbish of despotism. It was that the foundations of wise and righteous institutions might here be laid broad and deep. It was that the miserable hovels of an ignorant, oppressed, starved, wretched population, might not occupy the places which are now covered with our large commercial cities and manufacturing towns—that instead of a few clusters of rude dwellings frowned upon by the gloomy walls of monkery, beautiful and flourishing villages, with churches and school-houses, set like polished gems in their bosom, might smile upon the whole face of this fair land—that instead of being dotted over with here and there a meager acre fleeced by the hand of poverty, this vast field, in all its length and breadth might yield a rich increase under the cultivation of independent, enterprising, virtuous and intelligent yeomen, that it might bloom as the garden of Eden and be loaded with the abundance of harvest—that here an empire might spring up from which righteousness should go forth as the morning till ” God’s ways are known upon earth, his saving health among all nations.”
This is the high destiny for which the land of our heritage has been reserved. Surely in this God has been merciful unto us and has blessed us. Let it be our united and fervent prayer to-day, that our forgetfulness of God, and our abuse of his mercies, may not debar us from that lofty destination to which we have been called.
The history of the colonization of our country presents many striking instances of the interpositions of a merciful Providence. How often was the infant colony at Jamestown on the point apparently of utter annihilation, from pestilence, and improvidence, and famine, dire and inevitable, and the impetuous fury of savages. But when in their last extremities ; when their prospect had become most appalling; when death in his most hideous forms stood staring them in the face, then they cried unto the Lord, and he heard them and stretched forth his hand for their relief. At his bidding the tempest laid aside its fury, and the frightful cloud passed away. The hand of the destroyer was staid; provisions came as upon the wings of the wind; and by means wholly beyond the reach of human foresight, the storm of vengeful fury which had raged in the bosom of the Indian was calmed. The hearts of all men are in the hands of God, and he turneth them at pleasure, as the rivers are turned. He can cause the wrath of man to praise him, or the remainder of wrath he can restrain.
In the history of the Plymouth colony the hand of an overruling Providence is still more strikingly visible. Had they, as they had purposed, been landed at New York, to all human appearance every soul of them must have fallen under the tomahawk. But through the treachery of their captain, they were landed amid the chilling blasts of winter upon the bleak and ice-bound shore of Plymouth. The natives upon that coast for many miles in extent had been swept off almost to a man, by a dreadful pestilence that had raged the previous season. Consequently the feeble afflicted and depressed colonists were allowed to remain for several months unmolested by the native lords of the soil, their jealous and exasperated foes. And none of us I trust are so pur-blind with prejudice as not to perceive that the destiny of this great republic was in no trifling degree linked with that of the Plymouth colony. In blessing them a merciful God has blessed us.
Again, when we reflect upon the history of our struggle for independence, how astonishing do the results appear compared with the means that were used. How unequal the contest. An infant colony— a mere handful of men, without experience, without arms, without funds, and without credit, asserting their violated rights, and triumphantly repelling the aggressions of the most powerful nation on earth.
“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” we may say,—” if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us.” [Psalm 124]
I would not presume to assert, that a holy God looked with approbation upon all the means that were used, and all the passions that were called into action by the wronged and aggrieved party in that struggle; but that their cause was a righteous one, and that the principles for which they contended received the sanction and the smiles of Heaven, I cannot question.
Josiah “The Patriot” Quincy Jr. proclaimed concerning the Revolutionary War of Independence: “In defense of our civil and religious rights, we dare oppose the world; with the God of armies on our side, we fear not the hour of trial, though the hosts of our enemies should cover the field like locusts. Under God we are determined that wheresoever, whensoever, or howsoever we are called upon to make our exit, we will die freemen.”
There were many engaged in that momentous conflict, who felt and acknowledged their dependence Upon that Almighty Being before whom “all nations are as nothing”—many who like Patrick Henry publicly expressed their confidence in that “just God who presides over the destinies of nations.”
Franklin at a most solemn crisis in the deliberations of the first Congress, arose, as you will recollect, and moved that they proceed no further till they had unitedly bowed before the throne of Almighty God, and implored his blessing and his direction.
Washington was no stranger to prayer, that instrument which “moves the hand that moves the world.” Many a grove near his encampments witnessed this great man bowing upon his knees with the humility of a child; and with his eyes and hands and heart uplifted, fervently praying, ” God be merciful unto us and bless us and cause his face to shine upon us; that thy ways may be known upon earth thy saving health among all nations.” Nay more;—on that sweet and sacred day which commemorates the resurrection of the great Captain of our salvation, Washington was seen at the holy altar, bowed at the side of the humblest rustic, and receiving the emblems of the body and blood of Him who bled and died to save the world.
But it was not because we or our fathers deserved such blessings that they were given to us, but because God was merciful to us. He had important purposes to accomplish through our instrumentality, and therefore he broke in sunder the rod of the oppressor. “With his own right hand and with his holy arm hath he gotten himself the victory.”
It would be inconsistent with this occasion, and unworthy of me, a minister of ” the prince of peace” were I now to say aught to arouse or to perpetuate one feeling of unkindness or hostility towards one of the most noblest and most magnanimous of nations. They were our brethren who rose up against us. They were blinded by the pride of power. It now becomes us as an high minded free, intelligent and Christian people to forget the wrong, and to cherish grateful recollections of the good they have conferred upon mankind. Though they like Joseph’s brethren many have been instigated by wicked passions to do us wrong. Yet God meant it for good. In the results of this strife between us is not the hand of an overruling Power as apparent as it was in the conduct of the sons of Jacob towards their younger brother? From this violation of our fraternal bonds what incalculable good has resulted to us, to them and to the world. They are our brethren still, and we will love them.
Of those peculiarities in their civil and religious institutions which we conscientiously and intelligently regard as radically defective, I need not now speak. The blotting out of their power from the system of Christian nations would be, to the world, a most disastrous event.
We have separated from each other as Abraham and Lot did, when there was strife between their herdsmen. We, like Lot have chosen a great and fertile plain, ” which is well watered everywhere, even as the garden of the Lord”—though I trust we have no Sodom and Gomorrah upon our borders in whose destruction we are to be involved. Let there be therefore no more strife between us and them, between our herdsmen and their herdsmen. Or rather let our strife be to provoke each other to good works. For purposes of good, “is not the whole land before us?” In that grand career of improvements upon which both we and they have entered, may we go forward locked arm in arm as brothers. To the great work of regenerating the world to which we are respectively summoned, O may we come up “shoulder to shoulder.”
In the maintenance of many of those dearest rights of man which are the glory of the Protestant world, these two nations like brothers good and true, are destined by Providence to stand by each other till the last decisive blow is struck and the shouts of victory are heard through all the earth.
Without then, any other feelings than those of brotherly kindness towards our mother country, let us devoutly praise God to-day, that he has so overruled both the evil and the good purposes of men that inestimable good has resulted to the world from our struggle for civil and religious freedom. “Let the people praise thee O God, let all the people praise thee.”
Again, the more we reflect upon the peculiarities of our institutions, in connection with, the circumstances under which they were founded, the more distinctly shall we discover in them marks of a hand Divine,
Shall we attribute it entirely to the sagacity and far reaching wisdom of the fathers of our country, that they were able to devise and mature a system of government a whole century in advance of the rest of the world?—that without a precedent, without a model, a few colonists laid the foundations of their social compact sufficiently broad, and deep, and firm, to sustain the weight of this great sisterhood of republics, when our population shall have become hundreds of millions 1 No, my brethren, without derogating in the least from human wisdom and foresight, we may believe that our great Parent on high gave wisdom to our wise men, counsel to our counsellors, and dictated law to our lawyers. Do not understand me as claiming for all the founder* of our government peculiar excellence of character as religious men; this I should not dare to do. For while some of them were very pious men, others were by no means such. And all the honors in the gift of this nation, should not have the weight of ” the small dust of the balance,” in inducing me to connive at, or to become the apologist for vice and impiety, in any notoriously wicked man, however eminent the services he may have performed for his country. I am now however, speaking of men, merely as instruments in the hands of Providence for effecting certain great and good purposes. That we have received many mercies in consequence of the prayers and faith of our fathers, I have already intimated, and I do most cordially believe it. But it is not necessary to confound virtue and vice, godliness and impiety, in order to express our veneration and gratitude towards those who have bequeathed to us the sacred legacy of civil and religious freedom. Though we may believe Washington to have been an humble christian, and to have been raised up by Providence for our deliverance, as certainly, though not miraculously, as Moses was for the deliverance of the children of Israel, yet as a man of God, as a man of high attainments in holiness, we should not presume to compare the great and justly venerated Washington with the Jewish law-giver.
That God was in the councils of our fathers while laying the foundations of this great political edifice, we have such evidence as we may not reject with impunity. In proof of this we have one remarkable instance in their having repudiated the old idea that the interests of religion may be promoted by a union of civil and ecclesiastical institutions. Now this appears the more extraordinary when we consider how many centuries this sentiment had held its sway in the Christian world; and how many men there were then in our own country who were startled at the idea of serving the unhallowed alliance. But in this distinctive feature of our institutions we now discover a most salutary provision—a provision which appeals strongly for the support of religion, both to our selfish and to our benevolent feelings. The framers of our institutions discovered that the civil arm instead of being a support to religion, had ever been its most oppressive burden—that religion had withered under its weight, and languished into the chill and leaden numbness of death. They threw off from Christianity the burden with which she had been loaded by the mistaken kindness of her guardians, and under which she had sunk. They cut the leading strings to which religion had been confined and allowed her to walk abroad in her own native majesty. But although they rejected the union of church and state, they by no means rejected religion either in intention or in fact. On the contrary they have imposed upon us the fearful alternative either of disseminating religious principles among the people, or of abandoning our present form of government. They have made no provision, as you will discover by an examination of our laws, for a state of things that must exist when the people shall have become ignorant, or shall have ceased to be moral. And the history of the world for six thousand years, shows to a certainty, that good morals cannot be long sustained in any community without religion. A corrupt people will no more tolerate good institutions than a good and wise people will corrupt institutions. Without religion we cannot have good citizens; and without good citizens we cannot sustain good laws.
On the other hand the prosperity of religion is materially affected by the stability or by the overthrow of good government.
Thus while the sage founders of our liberties have not appealed to the law for the support of religion, they have appealed to every feeling of patriotism and philanthropy and christian benevolence, for its support. . Here religion is left free to find her way to the conscience of every man, and every man is left free to pay her whatever homage his conscience may dictate. Thus has God caused his face to shine upon us. He has poured light upon us from above.
One other circumstance for which we should offer up our devout acknowledgments to-day, is, the early establishment of a system of education peculiarly adapted to the genius of our government.
A system of general education seems to be indispensably necessary to the stability of government by the people, unless the people have intelligence to perceive justice they will not decree it. If knowledge is power to establish and sustain, ignorance is a mightier power to destroy. A fabric which the wisdom of a whole nation may have been centuries in constructing, may be destroyed, by the ruthless hand of barbarians, in a single hour.
To our system of common schools, as the attendant luminary of religion, are we in a great measure indebted for our present well-being as a people, and for our elevated rank among nations. In the history of our education the hand of our all-wise Providence is seen planting at the earliest infancy of our colonies, the germ of that tree which has grown with our growth and strengthened with our strength till it has come to a strong, rich and beautiful maturity.
Provided a people be intelligent and virtuous and enterprising, it matters not so much what are their climate, soil and other external circumstances—their influence will be felt, it will tell upon human destiny. Why is it that Scotland, a little nook of the world, made up in a great measure of rugged mountains and deep glens, has not only elevated her own population, but has sent abroad a redeeming influence, which is now pervading all civilized nations? It is her general education—embracing of course religious instruction, that has done this. From her seminaries of learning, has arisen a bright constellation of men, which has ascended high in the moral firmament, and whose brightness will continue to go forth into all the dark habitations of man, till one great flood of light shall cover the whole earth, from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same.
From the bleak hills of New England there has emanated an influence which has had more to do with the molding and the maturing of the institutions of our whole country, than many of the present generation are willing to admit. Whether the ‘eulogists of the Pilgrims—to whose memory I may be expected on this occasion to pay a passing tribute—may not sometimes have portrayed their characters in too high colors, I need not now attempt to decide. Nor should we allow the blemishes of their character to conceal from our view the good that they did, and that lives after them. I do not now purpose to speak of them with any reference to their peculiar religious tenets. They certainly were a peculiar people; but among their peculiarities, their excellences were conspicuous. I do not deem it incumbent on me to appear at this time as the apologist for their dark deeds of persecution. These have fixed an indelible stain upon their memory—a stain which the tears of posterity can never, never wash away. But the palliating circumstances in their favor should not be forgotten. They lived in a persecuting age—they lived at an age when the principles of religious toleration were but little understood and less practiced. They had long been schooled to persecution, and it would have been cause for peculiar gratitude, had they been able to have forgotten at once, all the lessons which the whole Christian world, with a few exceptions, had been inculcating for centuries.
But the institutions which they founded are pouring upon us such a flood of light, that the blemishes of their personal characters are but as spots upon the disc of the sun—we cannot long gaze upon them with the naked eye, without the aid of something very different from that charity which ” rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” The time is yet future—and I say it as a citizen of Michigan, the state of my adoption, and of my cordial preference—the time is yet future when the influence of the institutions founded by the early settlers of New England shall be justly appreciated in this country. Should the time ever come—which may a merciful God forbid—when those sterner, though less splendid and captivating virtues which nerved our fathers for their conflicts, shall be scouted and driven from among us, and the entire ascendency given to those more specious, but effeminate and enervating principles, which are being so generally transplanted from foreign climes to our own, and which are so sedulously cultivated among us—should we ever arrive at such a consummation of folly, then will our days have been numbered and finished, and our glory will have departed.
Should it ever become the melancholy task of the historian, to sit down amid the fallen columns and broken arches, and chaotic ruins of our political edifice, and trace the causes of such a dreadful catastrophe back to their source, then will he record upon the historic page his lamentations, that the institutions founded at an early period of our history, were either poisoned at their fountains, or were not permitted to have their due influence over this people.
But such a disaster I confidently trust no historian will ever have to record. When then we shall have become so great as to be just—when in the vastness of our empire, New England with her green hills, and white villages, and towering steeples, and college lawns, shall have become as the little garden in the corner of the opulent farmers field, then shall we be willing to acknowledge our indebtedness to the common schools and stern virtues of the Puritans—then will many be prepared to say what I now unhesitatingly aver, that if the system of general education as early established in this country could be traced up to any one individual as its founder, I had rather have been that individual, than the author of that grand discovery which gave Sir Isaac Newton’s name to immortality.
For all the blessings of our literary, civil and religious institutions, ” let the people praise thee O Lord ; let all the people praise thee.”
2nd. The connection between our present position as a people, and the event of “God’s ways being known upon earth his saving health among all nations,” is so obvious that I shall offer but a few observations under this head. “A city set on a hill cannot be hid.” God has caused his face to shine upon us, and the light thus received, we are in some measure reflecting out upon the families of man. As God has placed our government at the head of the popular institutions of the world, the influence of our example must be widely felt.
Our commerce is spreading its canvass in every part, and is fast lining the coast of the world. And wherever our ships go, there our institutions are made known. Nay more—look out upon every ocean and sea, and behold in all directions our ships of commerce, with their wings spread to the winds, hastening to benighted nations with the glad tidings of salvation—conveying to those nations thousands and tens of thousands of that precious volume which is to make known ” Gods ways upon earth his saving health among all nations.”
Look upon the wharves of our Atlantic cities, and what melting spectacles may you frequently witness there, a group in tears are now bidding each other along, long, adieu. Sobbing parents and children are parting to meet no more. The light-hearted mariner has turned back to look on. Another and another ascend the rigging of their vessels to view the scene. And now the big tear rolls down their sun-burnt cheeks. The parting hymn is sung. The voice of melody floats along upon the air through a forest of masts and many a wayward voyager stops to listen. The last strain, farewell, farewell, dies upon the water—the gallant ship spreads her wings and bears away from their country, their friends, their home, a band of well educated, self sacrificing holy young men, on an errand of mercy to heathen nations; they go to carry that gospel which will ere long make those enthralled nations as free, as intelligent, as happy as our own—they go to make known “God’s ways upon earth his saving health among all nations.”
Again, there is another majestic ship under full sail nearing the coast of Africa. A hundred happy colonists are on board. Once they were in bondage in this land of freedom. But the day of their sighing is at an end. “The year of jubilee” is come, and the ransomed captives are returning home to the land of their fathers. They are looking eagerly toward the colony of their destination. The ship makes the land—they leap on shore and are forever free.
Now may we not hope that by means of these colonists a channel is to be opened by which the blessings of our institutions shall be poured into the very heart of enslaved, smitten, bleeding Africa?—that thus our wrongs to them may be overruled by a merciful God for great good—may be made the means of sending the saving health of the gospel to the hundred millions of that bruised, wounded, plague-stricken race? Let us on this day fervently beseech the God of the oppressed, to remove that fearful rod of correction which we have been long preparing for ourselves, by enslaving and buying and selling millions of those immortal beings whom Christ died to redeem—let us earnestly pray that the beacon-lights which have been hung out upon the dismal coast of Africa, may burn brighter and brighter, and be raised higher and higher, till they have illumined every habitation, and thrown their light upon every appalling, hideous form of misery and debasement throughout that great continent.
From the fountains of our institutions, innumerable streams are going forth through the world to convey God’s saving health unto all nations. And the truth cannot be too deeply impressed upon our minds, that in us as a people the world has momentous interests at stake. In the institutions which our fathers have bequeathed to us, we have a most sacred legacy for the right use of which we are accountable to God. He has entrusted them to us as an instrument of good to mankind—as a lever by which we must endeavor to raise up the moral world from its present debasement. And if we do not guard them and apply them to the purposes for which the great Parent of all designed them, great will be our guilt both as individuals and as a people.
And may our own young and vigorous state be prepared to meet the full weight of its responsibility. In travelling over this state we find it almost entirely in the hands of young men. They are at all our fountains of influence. To these young men is entrusted the responsible work of founding the institutions of this republic, which in a few years must number its million of inhabitants. The unprecedented rapidity with which our population is increasing, admonishes us to be on the alert for good—for our own good, and for the good of posterity.
At almost every step some melancholy memento reminds us that we are pressing hard upon the footsteps of another race of men, once powerful, who have melted away before our advancing population like the morning mist before the rising sun. “We are almost amid their new-made graves and the dying embers of their council fires. These fields, these rivers, these water-falls were but recently theirs. These beautifully undulating grounds, so richly ornamented with trees, and shrubs, and flowers, were the parks of their noblemen. These trails which stretch across our farms and prairies and guide us in our journeys, were the highways to their villages, and towns, and legislatures. But where have they gone? They have fled from us as the stricken deer to pine away and die in solitude. It was but yesterday that he whose name our township bears, was perhaps, haranguing his warriors upon this very spot in all the impressive eloquence of a Demosthenes. But here and there one still lingers among us. Let us remember them to-day, wherever we meet them let us look upon them with pity, and endeavor as far as possible to mitigate the bitterness of their hard destiny. Let us if possible, keep from them that exterminating mischief which has long mingled its deadly ingredients in the cup of their tribulations. O let us endeavor to remove the gloom and dismal terror which hang over their dark passage into another world, and let us point them to that better country where sorrow and sighing shall be no more.
May the young men in all our villages feel their accountability to posterity—may the impression be deeply engraved upon their hearts, that they are laying the foundations of society for coming generations, for unborn millions. May they take the Book of God for their counsellor. And let us to-day, my young friends, pledge ourselves to look well to our influence, to come up manfully with hosts of other young men in different parts of our country to the cause of man, that is, to every good cause; to the cause of Bibles and Sunday Schools—let us enlist cordially, resolutely, and for life in that enterprise in the success of which, the well-being of every village is involved, the cause of temperance, whose grand achievements are to be scarcely less important to the world than those of the war of our independence.
Let us invest liberally according to our means, for posterity, by establishing as early as possible good literary institutions. Let us be more anxious to adorn our villages with good school-houses and neat churches, than with splendid private dwellings.
And may God be merciful unto us and bless us with the pardon of all our sins—and may He enlighten our hearts with the light of the everlasting gospel. And may our lives conduce to make known his ways upon earth, his saving health among the nations. May we all so praise him on earth, that when our tongues are stilled in death, we may be able to sing the “new song” with all the rapt hosts of heaven.
“Let the people praise thee O God; let all the people praise thee”. Amen.