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ple, rather than to different climates, different food, diferent laws, or different religions. A nation takes its peculiar character from the stock from which it originates. Wherever we can discover the first inhabitants of any country, there we find that they gave the national character to their descendants. In America, we are able to trace the rise and progress of each of the United States. We know the character of the first planters of Massachusetts, of Rhode-Island, of New-York, of Pennsylvania, of Maryland. And we know that the same peculiarities which distinguished the first settlers, continue to distinguish their descendants in each of those States. The national character of the natives of America was formed by example, for they had no written laws, nor written religion, to form it. And there is no national character more distinctly and strongly marked than theirs. They will by no means conform to the customs and manners of any other nation. The reason is, they make the example of their progenitors the sole rule of their conduct. Example is their supreme law, which they use every possible method to render absolutely sacred. Such is the force of example in all human societies, that it marks them with peculiar and permanent characters. And the nature of men must be changed, before this effect of example will cease. I observe once more,
IV. That example governs all the modes of human conduct. The modes of speaking, of reading, of writ ing, among all civilized nations are formed by the force of example. These modes vary according to the opinion and practice of those who are esteemed the best instructors. The few set the example to the many; and the many implicitly follow. The mass of the people have no other guide in these matters. than bare example. The higher branches of learning are subject to the same
sovereign authority. Sometimes mathematics, sometimes philosophy, sometimes metaphysics, and some, times the fine arts are in fashion. And each of these sciences is principally cultivated, according to the example of those who reign in the republic of letters, Example governs the various modes of building. Different nations, different states, different towns, and even different villages, commonly construct their buildings in a different manner. In travelling the road, when we meet with a cluster of houses, we may generally observe a great similarity in their structure, magnitude and materials. This is a familiar instance of the force of example, which is every where to be seen. Example fixes the various degrees of reputation, which belong to the various stations, and employments of life, in the various parts of the world. Different professions are very differently esteemed in different nations, and even in different parts of the same nation. And there is scarcely any profession but what is reputable among some people. Among the Jews it was reputable to labor in any of the mechanic arts. Our blessed Savior was a carpenter, To cultivate the earth
,and the son of a carpenter. was the original business of man. And this employment was honorable among the Romans in their most flourishing situation. Cincinnatus was repeatedly called from the plough, to the head of that mighty empire. In different parts of our own country, different professions are very differently esteemed. To labor with the hands in the field, in the house, or in the shop, is reputable in the Northern States. But in the Southern States, every species of manual labor is looked upon as below the dignity of men of rank and fortune. This is the fruit of example, which has peculiar influence upon men, in the choice of their particular occupations and professions. Nor does the force of
example stop here, but absolutely directs almost every man in the particular modes of prosecuting his particular business. The son follows the example of the father, the daughter the example of her mother, the servant the example of his master, the scholar the example of his teacher. And posterity follow the example of their ancestors.
The great affairs of government are subject to the supreme power of example. A single nation follows some great general, or great politician. One nation treads in the steps of another. The modes of one government are interwoven with those of another. The British government still retains the effects of popery, and many of the laws of Rome. The American government bears striking features of the British. And the French constitution is a mere transcript of the American.
The modes of religion ought to be wholly subject to the divine authority; but the example of man often outweighs the authority of God, in these serious concerns. The peculiarities and ceremonies of each different sect among Christians, took their origin from the opinion and practice of one single person, or of a few individuals. And when a sect is formed, example preserves their existence, and all their peculiarities. Let me instance in the Friends, a sect with whom we are acquainted. Their peculiarities can scarcely plead the least divine warrant. But yet there is no other sect so perfectly uniform in all their relig ious modes, even to the smallest punctilios. This must arise from the prodigious power of example.
Modes of public mourning and of public rejoicing take their rise from the same powerful cause. Example is the law, to which all nations submit in those points of ceremony. Savage nations mourn and re
Joice according to nature; but polished nations according to art. The former give indulgence to their passions; the latter lay them under restraint, and neither mourn nor rejoice according to their own feelings, but according to the feelings of the spectators, who are less interested in the mournful or joyful events. Here example appears stronger than the strongest passions of human nature.
I may add, it is the proper province of example, to govern modes of dress, modes of living, and modes of diversion. Here example reigns alone and supreme. It has no superior, no assistant, and no rival. Example commands the French always to change, and forbids the Spaniards ever to alter their dress; and both are equally obedient. Men eat and drink more according to example, than according to reason, interest, health, or appetite. Were it not for the tyranny of example, men would live as much according to nature as the inferior animals, and as seldom injure themselves, by intemperance. But foolish example triumphs over their reason, interest, reputation, and happiness, and subjects them to the greatest present and future evils.
Diversions, properly so called, have no foundation either in reason or religion. They are the offspring of a corrupt heart, and nourished by vicious example. God requires duties, and nothing but duties. And the duties which he requires are so various, and so well adapted to our present state, that in the performing of them, we may find all the relaxation of body and mind, which either can ever require. But example overcomes duty, and constrains all to indulge themselves in amusements, which the dictates of reason and the commands of God forbid. Few have the conscience and the resolution to resist this tyranny
of example. Most are easily led astray by the prac tice of those, whom they consider as greater, or wiser, or better than themselves. Many diversions wear an innocent appearance, though they really murder time, and unfit the heart for the duties of devotion. All diversions, whether more mean or more manly, are the grapes of Sodom, and the clusters of Gomorrah; and though they are sweet to the taste, yet they are bitter to the conscience, and injurious to the soul. But example is strong enough to stifle the dictates of duty, and to lead the sons and daughters of men, in the smooth and pleasant path of diversion, to endless ruin. Thus it appears from universal observation and experience, that example has a great and constant influence over mankind, in all their diversions and employments, through every stage and condition of life, from the cradle to the grave.
It now only remains to improve the subject.
1. We learn from the great influence of example, why parents are so unsuccessful in the education of their children. They naturally have a strong and tender affection for their offspring, which is a powerful motive to promote their reputation and happiness. But though they generally endeavor to instruct and restrain them, both by precept and penalty; yet they often find, to their sorrow, that their well meant endeavors fail of answering their ardent wishes. And this is frequently a matter of their astonishment as well as of their grief. But if they would only reflect on their own example, which they have set before their children, they might, in many cases, easily discover the principal cause of their great disappointment. They often defeat their own instructions and corrections by their own examples. Example has a more constant and controlling influence over the