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ment? * Is it doubtful, whether that reverent regard, with which this day was treated by our ancestors, was nearly connected with those habits of integrity, industry, sobriety, and moderation, for which they were so remarkable? Have not the general profanation of God's name, and the inconsiderate use of that language, in which he has been pleased to express the sanctions of his law, a direct tendency to impair the influence of those sanctions, and to dissipate the fears of profligate men ?
Probably there was never a time, since we became a nation, when the crime of perjury had become so frequent, as at present. This is the legitimate offspring of other sins, to which we have been long accustomed; and to those, who are acquainted with the human character, it can produce but little surprise. When the witness, the complainant, or the accused adds to his promise of uttering nothing but the truth, these words, so help me God, he does, indeed, imprecate on himself the divine anger, if his testimony should be designedly false.
But imprecations of a similar import, he has used, perhaps, a thousand times without feeling his responsibility, or realizing the solemnity of an oath. That individual, therefore, especially if placed
* The disregard, with which the Sabbath was treated in France, a short time preceding the revolution, will appear from the following note:
“ These various reflections are very necessary in the place, where I live, since, for a short time, laborers have been permitted to work, át Paris, of a Sunday. We see this publicly done at the new bridge, which is building over the Seine ; as if a work of mere convenience was in such haste, that the laws should be dispensed with to accelerate its execution. The laborers, some will say, are glad to gain a day every week. Undoubtedly, because they see only the present instant, they have reason to think so; but it is the duty of government to consider, in a more comprehensive point of view, the interest of the people, of that part of society which is so blind, or so limited, in its calculation. And the church should exarnine also, if the sudden alteration of a practice so ancient, may not give rise to an idea, that the spirit of religion is growing feeble. FOR THE NATIONS, WHERE THIS SPIRIT IS BEST PRESERVED, HAVE THE GREATEST RESPECT FOR THE SABBATH."
Neckar on the Imp. of Rel. Opin. Chap. ix. note.
in a commanding station, who swears profanely, or violates the Sabbath, does much towards demolishing the foundations, on which civil society is supported. He breaks up the fountains of the great deep; the waters will rush out from their caverns, and overflow the earth.
Whoever may be the immediate authors of our present sufferings, certain it is, that in order to our obtaining the blessings of permanent and solid prosperity, a reformation must be effected in our national character.
The Greeks, with good reason, inveighed against the ambition of Philip. Nor with less reason were the patriots of Rome alarmed at the daring measures of Caesar. But neither did Philip nor Caesar impose a yoke on the necks of a free people. In both cases, the people were enslaved by their passions, and by the unrestrained depravity of the heart. Liberty was not immolated either at Chaeronea or Philippi. She had been long declining; and those places only witnessed her dying struggles.
It is the immutable purpose of God, that a people, destitute of moral principle, shall be neither free nor happy. We may, therefore, consider Jehovah, speaking to us, as he once spake to Israel: Put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Cease to do evil and learn to do well. Them, that honor me, I will honor; and they, that despise me, shall be lightly esteemed.
In making this appeal to the venerable guardians of the State, I do not suggest the idea of multiplying laws for the suppression of those vices, which have been mentioned. If the laws, now existing, were executed, the evil would soon be suppressed. If they can be executed, and are not, it is evident, where rest the responsibility and the guilt. But, if our national character has so degenerated, that magistrates would not be supported in executing the laws; if the torrent is so heavy and rapid, as to overwhelm the civil authority, then is immediate reformation our only hope. Considering the numbers, which compose this legislative body,—the talents, wealth, and character which it embraces, its influence, if concentrated on a particular object, would be incredibly powerful. There is scarcely a town or
plantation in the Commonwealth, which is not here represented. That you have popularity and influence in your respective towns and districts, is evident from the places of honor, which you now hold. You are, therefore, the persons to engage in this work of reform. You may unquestionably do much. And, permit me to say, that when God gives means and ability, there is something, which he will require us to give in return; I mean an account of the manner in which we use them. Nothing, at present, is better understood, than systematical operation. Our political contentions have taught us to carry this art to high perfection. Let there be the same union of zeal and system to suppress vice, and to revive the habits, the spirit, and piety of our forefathers, which is discovered in bearing down a rival interest, and your names will be forever recorded, as the honored instruments of perpetuating the union, and of achieving the salvation and glory of your country.
MEANS OF PERPETUATING THE BLESSINGS
Isaiah 59: 21. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the
Lord: My spirit, that is upon tbee, my words, which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and forever.
WHETHER these words relate to the Christian church in general, or only to that part of it, which shall hereafter be composed of converted Jews, is not entirely obvious. In either case, the promise which they contain, is made to God's professing people, and has reference to the prosperity of the church.
No man, accustomed to reflection, confines his attention to the present hour. Even if this world were the only theatre of human action, it would still be evident, that the scene in which we find ourselves, as it did not commence, so neither will it terminate, with our mortal existence. The succession of human beings will continue, with all their capacities for pleasure and pain, with all their native moral propensities either to virtue or vice. The condition of society, we know, admits of great diversity. Its actual state is, at one period, exceedingly different, as to order, happiness, and morals, from what it is at another. Should we, therefore, leave out of the account our own descendants, and the consideration of another life, it would still be difficult to avoid all solicitude for the generations yet to come.
Even in the case supposed, something more than curiosity would lead us to inquire, what was likely to be the state of the world after our departure, and what the character and condition of our successors. But, when we contemplate ourselves, in the honorable, and interesting relation of parents, and consider, that the blood which is now confined, or was ever confined to our own veins, may flow hereafter in a thousand channels, and that the flame of life, when extinguished in these tabernacles, may be lighted up in successive generations, even until "the day when the Son of man shall be revealed;" when we reflect, moreover, that in this long series of rational beings, so nearly related to ourselves, each individual will possess immortal powers, and will be prepared while on earth, for the joys of eternal redemption, or for sufferings without end or mitigation, it is impossible, that any person of piety or reflection should deny, that he stands in the most interesting relation to posterity ; nor can such an one forbear to inquire, whether his descendants shall be the patrons of piety and Christian morals, or diffuse around them the poison of infidelity, and profligate habits.
To the Christian, who indulges these reflections, and feels that solicitude which they are calculated to excite, no passage, perhaps, in the whole inspired volume, can be more grateful, than that, which has been read from the evangelical prophet:As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord: My spirit that is upon thee, and my words, which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart from thy mouth, nor from the mouth of thy seed, nor from the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and forever.
The blessings, comprehended in the promise, are means of instruction, together with the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit : My Spirit, that is upon thee, and my words shall not depart out of thy mouth, &c. It seems, therefore, promised to the professing people of God, that the essential truths of religion shall be preserved among their children and remote descendants ; that public preaching shall be enjoyed; and the ordinances of Christianity retained. In addition to this, there shall be, from time to time, such communications of divine influence, as shall ensure effect to evangelical doctrines: God's word shall not return unto him void ; but shall accomplish that, which he shall please, and prosper in the thing whereto it is sent. Parents